Advocates: Ruling against DACA must push Congress to act

Friday, Jul. 23, 2021
By Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Catholic immigration advocates are urging Congress and President Joe Biden to speed up legislation to protect immigrants after a federal judge ruled July 16 to end a program that prevents the deportation of thousands of immigrants brought into the United States illegally as children.

These groups immediately took to social media to respond to the decision by U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen, who said the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, was illegal.

His ruling, which plaintiffs plan to appeal, bars the government from approving any new applications to the program but leaves it open for current participants.

The decision means that “tens of thousands of people who applied but had their initial cases stuck in limbo due to crisis-level processing delays ... will not receive life-altering protection from deportation or stability, security, opportunity,” tweeted Lisa Parisio, director of advocacy for Catholic Legal Immigration Network, or CLINIC.

Hanen ruled in favor of Texas and eight other states that filed suit in 2018 against DACA on the grounds that former President Barack Obama, who created the program by executive order in 2012, did not have the authority to do so because he bypassed Congress.

The states that joined Texas in the lawsuit – Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, South Carolina and West Virginia – also said the program has been a financial strain.

DACA has enabled about 700,000 qualifying young people described as Dreamers to work, go to college, get health insurance, a driver’s license and not face deportation. These young adults were brought to the U.S. as children by their parents without legal documentation.

Just last year, the Supreme Court ruled against efforts by the Trump administration to end the program, saying the actions taken to rescind it had been “arbitrary and capricious.” A federal judge at the end of last year also ordered the Trump administration to fully restore DACA.

In response to the Supreme Court’s ruling, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops urged President Donald Trump to “strongly reconsider terminating DACA” and they also urged U.S. senators to “immediately pass legislation that provides a path to citizenship” for Dreamers, stressing that this kind of “permanent legislative protection” is long overdue.

Biden pledged to protect DACA in his presidential campaign, and he has since proposed legislation that would provide immigrants with a pathway to citizenship. DACA supporters have long insisted that it’s up to Congress to pass legislation that would provide Dreamers with permanent relief.

Hanen similarly indicated that Congress needs to step in. When he rejected Texas’ request in 2018 to end DACA through a preliminary injunction, he wrote at the time: “If the nation truly wants to have a DACA program, it is up to Congress to say so.”

Currently, a Senate committee is considering the American Dream and Promise Act of 2021. The House passed its version of the measure in March, along with the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, which provides a path to legal status for farmworkers. The American Dream measure would create a “conditional permanent resident” status valid for up to 10 years that would protect DACA recipients and other Dreamers from deportation, allow them to work legally in the U.S. and permit them to travel outside the country if they meet several requirements.

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