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Federal appeals court sends DACA case back to lower court to review new program guidelines

Demonstrators hold up balloons during an immigration rally in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals  and Temporary Protected Status programs, near the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.
Jose Luis Magana
Demonstrators hold up balloons during an immigration rally in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Temporary Protected Status programs, near the U.S. Capitol.

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A federal appeals court on Wednesday sided with a Texas-based federal judge who ruled the 2012 Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was likely illegal.

The three-judge panel did however leave the program in place for renewals and sent the case back to the lower court for further consideration.

The program, commonly known as DACA, protects hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants from immediate deportation and allows them to legally work in the United States with renewable work permits. As of June 2022, there were more than 97,000 recipients of the program in Texas and more than 594,000 across the country, according to the Migration Policy Institute.

The decision comes after Judge Andrew Hanen of Texas ruled last year that the program was implemented incorrectly after Texas and other-Republican states filed suit to halt the program. Hanen ruled then that DACA renewals could continue to be processed as the case played out on appeal but blocked new applications.

After Wednesday’s decision, the case now goes back to Hanen who will review the legality of new rules the Biden administration issued in August, the Associated Press reported.

Attorneys for Texas argued before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans that the state has been harmed by having to spend money on social and health services for undocumented immigrants.

Supporters of the program argue that DACA recipients contribute to the country’s economy and that most have spent nearly all their lives in the United States. Applicants must also pass background checks and have some type of formal education to even be considered for the program.

In their ruling the judges at the Fifth Circuit said the legal questions surrounding DACA are “serious, both to the parties and to the public.” But they also considered the long-standing effect the program has had on recipients and others.

“We also recognize that DACA has had profound significance to recipients and many others in the ten years since its adoption,” the opinion states. “Given the ‘uncertainty of final disposition’ and the ‘inevitable disruption that would arise from a lack of continuity and stability,’ we preserve the stay as to existing recipients.”

After the ruling, United We Dream — a national advocacy group for immigrant youth — implored Democrats in the U.S. Congress to address permanent relief for DACA recipients and other immigrants.

“Right now, Democrats have the power to get this done. It is clear Republicans are only interested in stoking the fires of disinformation and bonding their increasingly small base of advocates over their misinformed xenophobia and limited world-view,” said Greisa Martinez Rosas, the executive director of United We Dream Action. “Our peace of mind, careers, livelihood, families, safety—continue to be at stake and Democrats must act now.”

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Got a tip? Email Julián Aguilar at can follow Julián on Twitter @nachoaguilar.
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