Department of Justice, civil rights group to appeal federal judge's ruling declaring DACA illegal

HOUSTON (AP) — The U.S. Department of Justice and a civil rights group filed legal notices on Thursday saying they plan to appeal a federal judge’s recent ruling that declared illegal a revised version of a federal policy that prevents the deportation of hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.

In September, U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen in Houston ruled in favor of Texas and eight other states suing to stop the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program. The federal policy was first created by the Obama administration in 2012.

In his ruling, Hanen expressed sympathy for DACA recipients and their families but said the executive branch had overstepped its authority in creating the program and it was up to Congress to take action on this issue.

In separate notices of appeal filed Thursday, the U.S. Department of Justice, which represented the federal government, and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, or MALDEF, which is representing DACA recipients in the lawsuit, said they plan to ask the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans to overturn Hanen’s ruling.

The Texas Attorney General’s Office, which represented the states in the lawsuit, did not immediately reply to an email seeking comment on the appeal.

The appeals process, including the filing of legal briefs, likely oral arguments before 5th Circuit judges and a ruling, was expected to take months to complete. But the DACA program’s fate was ultimately expected to end up for a third time before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Hanen’s order extended the current injunction that had been in place against DACA, which barred the government from approving any new applications, but left the program intact for existing recipients, known as “Dreamers,” during the ongoing legal review.

There were 578,680 people enrolled in DACA at the end of March, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Texas and the other states have argued the Obama administration didn’t have the authority to create the program and that they’ve incurred hundreds of millions of dollars in health care, education and other costs when immigrants are allowed to remain in the country illegally. The states that sued are Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina, West Virginia, Kansas and Mississippi.

Those defending the program have argued Congress has given the federal government the legal authority to set immigration enforcement policies.

Congress has failed multiple times to pass proposals called the DREAM Act to protect DACA recipients.

Hanen had previously declared the program illegal in 2021. The Biden administration had tried to satisfy Hanen’s concerns with a new version of DACA but was rebuffed with September’s ruling.


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