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Latest DACA decision offers ‘sigh of relief’ but keeps Dreamers in limbo  

Protests in favor of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program demonstrate outside the Supreme Court as the court hears several cases regarding the DACA program on Tuesday, November 12, 2019.
Greg Nash
Protests in favor of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program demonstrate outside the Supreme Court as the court hears several cases regarding the DACA program on Tuesday, November 12, 2019.

A federal appeals court on Wednesday ruled that immigrants enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program can renew their “Dreamer” status but that new applicants are blocked as Biden administration revisions of the program are sent back to a lower court for review.  

“Today, DACA recipients can breathe a sigh of relief, but the urgency remains to pass a permanent solution that brings stability to the lives of DACA recipients,” said Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairman Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.).  

DACA, which was created in 2012 by former President Obama’s administration, is aimed at protecting Dreamers, who brought into the U.S. as children, from deportation. 

A federal district judge in Texas last year declared that the Department of Homeland Security violated procedural rules when they created DACA.  

The Biden administration appealed, and the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday ruled to uphold the lower court’s decision but sent it back for review due to a new rule put forth by the administration, effective Oct. 31.  

DACA has been jeopardized by a number of legal challenges, causing supportive lawmakers to seek a legislative solution to protect Dreamers.  

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus has called for 10 Senate Republicans to join all Democrats in the upper chamber and pass the Dream and Promise Act, which would allow the Dreamers to apply for citizenship. The bill passed the House in March of last year. 

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) echoed the call to advance the bill in order “to ensure that all Dreamers are safe from deportation and provided a roadmap to citizenship” whether or not DACA remains in place.  

“Today’s decision shows that DACA will continue to be threatened by xenophobic, anti-immigrant attacks from the right. Dreamers who continue to benefit from DACA deserve better than to have to worry about whether or not they will be able to stay in the only country they know as home each time the program is attacked in court,” Jayapal said in a statement. 

The DACA case is being sent back to the same judge who declared it illegal last year, Judge Andrew Hanen in Texas.

Hanen’s court is “where policies intended to protect immigrants from harsh enforcement have for years gone to die,” Jorge Loweree, managing director of programs at the American Immigration Council, said in a statement.

National Immigration Law Center Executive Director Marielena Hincapié said Congress needs to enshrine DACA protections because the program “is legally and morally right, but it was always meant to be temporary.” 

Even the immigrant youth who, under the federal court’s new ruling, can remain enrolled in the program must renew every two years — and continued legal challenges jeopardize the protections it affords.  

Emphasizing the urgent need for legislative action, Hincapié said that “immigrant youth cannot be expected to continue to live with the constant uncertainty wrought by politicized attacks on the policy” and argued that “we cannot sit by awaiting another adverse ruling.” 

Erika Andiola, a DACA recipient and the communications director at the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights, said the program “has never been enough to protect immigrant communities long term.”

Andiola noted that any solution from Congress or the Biden administration must provide “permanent protections” to ensure the immigrants would be safe from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which she said “has long been a rogue agency.”

Sergio Gonzales, executive director of the advocacy group the Immigration Hub, called out “MAGA Republicans gunning for DACA through the courts as they did with abortion” and asked for Biden, Democrats and “any commonsense Republicans left in Congress” to take action.  

“The good news is that those currently with DACA will continue to live and work under the protections of the program. The bad news is that DACA is hanging by a thread. The only question is when it will end — with many experts predicting the Supreme Court will declare the program unlawful and end it next year,” Gonzales said.

Tags Andrew Hanen Biden Biden Congressional Hispanic Caucus DACA Department of Homeland Security Dream and Promise Act Dreamers immigration Immigration and Customs Enforcement Immigration Hub National Immigration Law Center Obama Obama Pramila Jayapal Raul Ruiz Young Center for Immigrant Children's Rights

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