600 thousand Dreamers in America are at risk of losing their legal status. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) was created in 2012 under the Obama administration. This program protects hundreds of thousands of Dreamers from being deported and is now being declared as illegal.
Undocumented immigrants under the DACA program, who are essential to our nation’s economy and communities are currently facing issues. U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen has ruled against DACA often and initially as early as 2015. In the current legal challenge, Hanen ruled last month that the program is illegal as it had failed to undergo the comments period and had not been subject to public notice as required.
Hanen found DACA to originally be unlawful as it was written by former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano rather than being created by the formal agency rulemaking process.
The current issue began with legal challenges filed in 2021. The Biden administration had initially responded to this challenge and, to satisfy Hanen, created a new version of the DACA rule in 2022.
Biden ensured it was within the formal rulemaking process and subject to public notice as required. After reviewing Biden’s attempt, Hanen, appointed in 2002 by former President George W. Bush, ruled the newly updated version of DACA remains illegal and unconstitutional, finding there were no new changes compared to the 2012 DACA memorandum.
Hanen believes that both were inconsistent with the Immigration and Nationality Act. Although the most recent version of the DACA rule Biden had revised in 2022 was, in fact, not remarkably different from the first version created in 2012. The new rule does not address any issues of frequency and delays within the process of renewals.
“While sympathetic to the predicament of DACA recipients and their families, this court has expressed its concerns about the legality of the program for some time,” Hanen states in his 77-page opinion ruling against the program. Hanen has also declined a request made by the states to order the program to end in two years.
Hanen claims his order will not require the federal government to take any action against the DACA recipients. The federal government, the State of New Jersey, and the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund are all defending the program while also arguing that Congress had already given the Department of Homeland Security the basic legal authority that allows them to set immigration policies.
If DACA is entirely ruled as unlawful, hundreds of thousands of Dreamers will lose opportunities and potentially be subject to deportation. Currently, there are nearly a million people who are enrolled in DACA who would lose all protections, and nearly one million more who are not enrolled in DACA but are eligible. The result of DACA ending would mean they would never receive the benefits from the program.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program has faced many court challenges since its introduction in 2012. In 2020 the high court ruled 5-4 that the Trump administration had improperly ended DACA, which allowed it to stay in place.
More recently, in Oct. 2022, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Hanen’s original ruling against DACA declaring it as illegal, but later sent the case back to Hanen to review and alter it once more due to the changes made to the program by the Biden administration in October 2022.
While the future of DACA remains unknown, the Biden administration is working to prevent the program from further attack. First-time DACA applications are being put on pause as this legal challenge continues, those who have DACA as of July 16, 2021 can continue to apply for renewal and are encouraged to do so.
Although this current decision on DACA will not have any immediate effect on those using the program, the program’s uncertain future will continue to grow fear throughout the nation.
“While the decision won’t have an immediate impact on people who currently rely on the program to live and work in the U.S. without the constant threat of deportation, it will continue to sow fear and distrust across the country,” said Jorge Lowree, Managing Director of Programs of the American Immigration Council. “If Congress continues to sit on its hands, waiting to be forced into action, the Republican-led state effort to kill DACA by a thousand cuts will succeed. The time to act is now,” Lowree said in an article by the American Immigration Council.
On Sept. 13, 2023, Ronald Gecher, Chancellor of the Chabot-Las Positas Community College District, released an emailed statement providing insight on this current situation. Las Positas will continue to support all students with DACA. “It is imperative that we clarify what this latest ruling means and recommit ourselves to supporting our undocumented community.”
All DACA applicants attending Las Positas are encouraged to renew their application if they haven’t already. Students currently relying on DACA can meet with a legal service provider free of charge by visiting findyourally.com. Students are encouraged to seek free mental health support on campus by visiting the Student Health & Wellness Center in the 1700 building, Room 1710.
Daya Sanchez is the Arts and Entertainment editor and a photo editor at the Express. See more of her work @czdayaaa