DACA Struck Down Again but Protections Remain for Young Recipients
September 18, 2023

​In a disappointing though widely expected move, Judge Andrew Hanen of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas has ruled that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is unlawful, rejecting an effort to bolster the policy from the Biden administration. 

The decision allows the program to continue and current recipients to renew their status, but it bars new applicants from applying. 

The decision is the latest development in over a decade of legal challenges to the DACA program, created by President Barack Obama by executive action in 2012. Since its inception, DACA has protected hundreds of thousands of young immigrants—many of them college students—from deportation and allowed them to pursue their educations, work legally in the United States, and serve in the military.

Hanen first ruled in 2021 that DACA was unlawful because it had not been created through the formal agency rulemaking process. The Biden administration responded by issuing a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) and in August 2022 released the final version of new regulations to strengthen and protect the program.

The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Hanen’s decision in 2022 but sent the case back to the district court for further consideration in light of the administration’s pending changes. In January, the Republican attorneys general of nine states who filed the case challenged that attempt, saying the Biden administration’s proposal violated the Administrative Procedure Act, among other potential violations.

Given the current dynamics in Congress, any movement on the issue appears unlikely now, and perhaps not until the Supreme Court weighs in. The high court in 2020 blocked an attempt by President Donald Trump to end the program, saying the administration had not provided proper legal justification for its case. The justices did not weigh in on whether the program itself was lawful and allowed legal challenges against DACA to continue.

In the interim, please consider reaching out to lawmakers at the Remember the Dreamers website and ask them to pass legislation to protect DACA and Dreamers.

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The Remember the Dreamers campaign is working to focus Congress on ​​finding a legislative solution for Dreamers and DACA recipients. Working together, the higher education community plays a vital role in both advocating for and assisting these young people, many of whom are students on our campuses.