In a ruling that has set the cat among the legislative pigeons, a federal judge in Texas has found the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program unlawful. Established by former President Barack Obama, DACA has long been a point of contention between the left and the right and has become somewhat of an ongoing ping pong match in terms of campaign promises. Judge Andrew Hanen of the Southern District of Texas ruled that DACA violated the Administrative Procedure Act. However, rather than striking it down entirely, Hanen decided that while his ruling does not mean the government should deport the so-called Dreamers, neither should the administration enroll any new youngsters in the program.
A Permanent Injunction?
Judge Hanen called DACA an “illegally implemented program” and further said that “the public interest of the nation is always served by the cessation of a program that was created in violation of law.” The case for declaring Obama’s program illegal was brought by a group of states led by Texas, arguing that the former president had acted without congressional authorization. The judge agreed and issued a permanent injunction vacating the memo that created DACA in the first place. President Joe Biden expressed his dismay at the ruling and called it “deeply disappointing.” He said that the Department of Justice would be appealing the decision “in order to preserve and fortify DACA.” He also clarified the judge’s decision, saying, “While the court’s order does not now affect current DACA recipients, this decision nonetheless relegates hundreds of thousands of young immigrants to an uncertain future.”
The ruling has reignited tensions between the two parties, with Rep. Katherine M. Clark (D-MA) describing the suspension as “cruel.” She tweeted, “To current #DACA recipients, you are safe here. To our young immigrants, we will not stop our work until every Dreamer is treated as they are: American.” Strong words, indeed, but a closer examination reveals that perhaps Dreamers are not the number one priority for the ruling party.
A Feasible Offer?
Republican Senators John Cornyn (TX) and Thom Tillis (NC) say they have a plan to help many of the more than 600,000 Dreamers and have called on Senator Dick Durbin (D-ILL), the Judiciary Committee Chairman, and other Democrats to vote on their proposal. The GOP senators say they have “targeted legislation” that would offer permanent legal status to “active participants” in the program. “Now will Senator Durbin schedule debate and vote on a bill that will provide DACA recipients some certainty?” Cornyn asked.
Durbin said on Friday that “Congress will now act quickly — with or without the party of Donald Trump — to allow these Americans to finally become citizens.” Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) echoed Durbin’s call to action, saying it was time for his party to use their majorities in both chambers to settle the long-standing issue. “Congress must seize the moment and any and all opportunities to finally provide a pathway to legalization for millions of undocumented immigrants,” he said. Indeed, the $3.5 trillion spending plan agreed to earlier this week could well be a vehicle for passing immigration reform that impacts DACA recipients, according to Durbin. However, whether that will pass scrutiny by the Senate Parliamentarian and be allowed through reconciliation seems unlikely with such strong Republican opposition.
Protesting Too Much?
With all the sound and fury, one might imagine that Judge Hanen’s ruling is the death knell for DACA, but perhaps this is just another example of political theatre. In fact, the Texas judge went to great lengths to explain that he was not seeking to terminate the program. Instead, he writes in his ruling:
“Hundreds of thousands of individual DACA recipients, along with their employers, states, and loved ones, have come to rely on the DACA program. Given those interests, it is not equitable for a government program that has engendered such a significant reliance to terminate suddenly. This consideration, along with the government’s assertion that it is ready and willing to try to remedy the legal defects of the DACA program indicates that equity will not be served by a complete and immediate cessation of DACA.”
So why the desperate pleadings and calls to arms from Democrat politicians? Could it be that the denizens of Capitol Hill are not willing to let a fundraising opportunity go to waste and are eager to capitalize on the free column inches afforded by this ruling? While politicos continue to vie for soundbites and soliloquies over reality and reason, not only will it be Dreamers who are left hanging in the wind, but also Americans who once believed their elected officials were there to serve something other than their own agenda.
Read more from Mark Angelides.