The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has been the subject of a lawsuit by nine states seeking to end it. The states claim they incur hundreds of millions of dollars in health care, education, and other costs when immigrants can remain illegally. The conditions that sued are Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina, West Virginia, Kansas, and Mississippi.
In 2021, Hanen declared DACA illegal, ruling that the program had not been subjected to public notice and comment periods required under the federal Administrative Procedures Act. Hanen also said the states seeking to stop it had standing to file their lawsuit because the program had harmed them. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans upheld Hanen's ruling in 2022 but sent the case back to him to review changes made to the program by the Biden administration.
The new version of DACA took effect in October and was subject to public comments as part of a formal rule-making process. In court filings, Texas and the other states argued that the updated program is essentially the same as the 2012 memo that first created it and remains "unlawful and unconstitutional." The states also argued that the White House overstepped its authority by granting immigration benefits that are for Congress to decide.
IN COURT FILINGS, the U.S. Justice Department argued that the states failed to show any direct injury because of DACA and that Congress has given the Department of Homeland Security the "authority and duty to set immigration enforcement policies." With the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Nina Perales, who will speak before Hanen on behalf of DACA recipients, said, "DACA is lawful. DACA is consistent with the many policies of the U.S. government in the past under different presidents."
Hanen has left the Obama-era program intact for those already benefiting from it. But he ruled there can be no new applicants while appeals are pending. There were 580,310 people enrolled in DACA at the end of December, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Hanen is not expected to rule after Thursday's court hearing immediately. But whatever decision he makes is expected to end up before the U.S. Supreme Court for a third time. In 2016, the Supreme Court deadlocked 4-4 over an expanded DACA and a version of the program for parents of DACA recipients. In 2020, the high court ruled 5-4 that the Trump administration improperly ended DACA, allowing it to stay in place.
President Joe Biden and advocacy groups have called on Congress to pass permanent protections for "Dreamers," which is what people protected by DACA are commonly called. Congress has failed multiple times to pass proposals called the DREAM Act to protect DACA recipients.