Lawyers from the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund had urged the judge to refrain altogether from ruling, citing Mr. Biden’s directive to the Department of Homeland Security to create rules to fortify the program, and legislation introduced recently in Congress that would put Dreamers on a path to citizenship.
“The decision does not reflect new developments in the law, including from the Supreme Court and therefore presents many grounds for successful appeal,” said Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel of the legal defense fund.
“The most important thing is, current recipients are protected,” he said.
Texas led the effort to terminate the program, and was joined by Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, South Carolina and West Virginia. Officials in those states had argued that the program was improperly adopted and left them with the burden of paying for education, health care and other benefits for immigrants who remained in the country under DACA’s protections.
In his 77-page opinion, Judge Hanen said that Congress had reserved the broad authority to regulate immigration, and that it had declined several times to give legal status to a group like the Dreamers.
“The executive branch cannot just enact its own legislative policy when it disagrees with Congress’s choice to reject proposed legislation,” the judge wrote. “Congress has not given D.H.S. the power to enact DACA.”
Currently, about 650,000 immigrants are enrolled in the program. Among them are some 200,000 frontline workers who have performed essential jobs in health care, agriculture, food processing and education during the pandemic.
President Donald J. Trump announced a cancellation of the program in 2017 but several federal court rulings barred him from completely terminating it. Recipients were allowed to renew their DACA enrollment even though new applications were not accepted.