Posted on September 14, 2023

Federal Judge Declares DACA Immigration Program Unlawful for Second Time

Olafimihan Oshin and Rebecca Beitsch, The Hill, September 13, 2023

A federal judge for the second time found the DACA program unlawful, but held back from ordering the deportation of the nearly 600,000 people who remain in the country as “Dreamers.”

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, first crafted with a 2012 memo under the Obama administration, was likewise found unlawful by federal District Court Judge Andrew Hanen in a similar ruling in 2021.

“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 wrote in the 40-page ruling.

“The solution for these deficiencies lies with the legislature, not the executive or judicial branches. Congress, for any number of reasons, has decided not to pass DACA-like legislation.”

Given earlier challenges to the DACA program’s creation through a memo, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2022 underwent formal rulemaking to solidify the basis for the program.

But Hanen found while the government followed the law in undergoing notice and comment rulemaking, the new rule essentially carried the 2012 memo into a formal rule without addressing prior issues criticized by the court.

Last year the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, before remanding the case to Hanen, found broader issues with DACA, saying the policy was inconsistent with immigration processes laid out under the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Hanen pointed to that in his Wednesday ruling, noting that while the record underlying the new rule showed DACA to be beneficial to both recipients and the U.S. “DHS did nothing to change or resolve the substantive problems found by this court or the fifth circuit.”

The White House in a statement late Wednesday said it was “deeply disappointed” in the ruling and vowed to continue defending the policy.