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Federal judge rules DACA is illegal, blocks new applicants

The ruling would impact future applicants but wouldn't immediately affect current permits.

American flags
DACA has hit another roadblock.
Getty Images

Federal Judge Andrew Hanen of Texas ruled Friday that Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the program enacted by former President Barack Obama that protects some undocumented immigrants from being deported, is illegal. As part of his ruling, Hanen also blocked new program applicants. 

The judge's ruling would prevent future applicants but wouldn't immediately impact current permits for hundreds of thousands of people, CNN reported. DACA was created in 2012 to allow undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children a chance to work and study without fear of deportation.

Hanen said Congress didn't give the Department of Homeland Security the right to create DACA, and that it blocked immigration officials from being able to enforce removal provisions through the Immigration and Nationality Act. Congress is the only entity that can pass legislation offering a permanent solution for DACA recipients, CNN notes, but immigration legislation has lagged for years.

In a statement Saturday, President Joe Biden called the ruling "deeply disappointing," adding, "The Department of Justice intends to appeal this decision in order to preserve and fortify DACA. And, as the court recognized, the Department of Homeland Security plans to issue a proposed rule concerning DACA in the near future.

"But only Congress can ensure a permanent solution by granting a path to citizenship for Dreamers that will provide the certainty and stability that these young people need and deserve," Biden added. "I have repeatedly called on Congress to pass the American Dream and Promise Act, and I now renew that call with the greatest urgency." The act would provide some immigrants with a path to permanent resident status. 

The Trump administration attempted to end DACA in 2017, drawing criticism from tech CEOs including Apple's Tim Cook, Google's Sundar Pichai and Amazon's Jeff Bezos. The executives, along with more than 300 others, signed a letter to the then-president expressing concern about the move. The Supreme Court blocked the Trump administration's efforts in 2020.