A federal judge in southern Texas on Friday ordered the Biden administration to stop granting new applications to the Obama-era immigration program that shielded hundreds of thousands of young immigrants from deportation.
The order declared that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, was “created in violation of the law and whose existence violates the law.”
But current recipients of DACA won’t immediately have their status pulled as a result of the order, the judge noted.
The ruling, which puts in jeopardy the program that President Joe Biden had sought to preserve, came as news outlets reported arrests at the U.S.-Mexico border hitting their highest levels in more than a decade.
Former President Donald Trump had sought to end DACA, but his effort was blocked in 2020 by the Supreme Court, which ruled 5-4 that his order to wind the program down was unlawfully “arbitrary and capricious.”
In a five-page order Friday afternoon, U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen declared, “From this date forward, the United States of America, its departments, agencies, officers, agents, and employees are hereby enjoined from administering the DACA program.”
Those entities are also barred from reimplementing the program without compliance with another law that governs federal regulatory procedure, Hanen’s order said.
The White House and the Department of Homeland Security did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.
The judge’s order said that the DACA program, created in 2012 through a policy memorandum from then-President Barack Obama’s Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano, was “illegally implemented.”
But since hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients now rely on DACA, Hanen’s order reasoned that “it is not equitable for a government program that has engendered such significant reliance to terminate suddenly.”
“Nothing in this injunction should be read as ordering DHS or any other governmental entity to cancel or otherwise terminate DACA status for any individual who currently is, as of this date, a DACA recipient in good standing,” Hanen wrote.
“Further, nothing in this injunction requires DHS or the Department of Justice to take any immigration, deportation, or criminal action against any DACA recipient, applicant, or any other individual that either would not otherwise take,” he wrote.
Omar Jadwat, head of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said in a statement that Hanen’s ruling “is wrong and is subject to appeal.”
Jadwat called on the Democrat-majority Congress to provide a pathway to citizenship for the “Dreamers” and other undocumented people in the U.S.
“Dreamers’ futures shouldn’t be in the hands of the courts,” he said.