President Biden on Saturday called on Congress to create a citizenship path for illegal immigrant “dreamers,” after a federal judge declared the Obama-era DACA program violated federal law and blocked new applicants.
Mr. Biden said the ruling by Judge Andrew S. Hanen, a federal judge in Texas, was “deeply disappointing” and condemns thousands of young immigrants to “an uncertain future.”
The Justice Department intends to appeal the decision and the Department of Homeland Security will issue a proposed DACA rule in the future, the president said.
However, he cautioned that neither department’s action would be an effective replacement for congressional action.
Lawmakers for decades have been at a stalemate over the fate of the program, which decides the fate of young adult illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and are seen as the most sympathetic cases.
“Only Congress can ensure a permanent solution by granting a path to citizenship for Dreamers that will provide the certainty and stability these young people need and deserve,” Mr. Biden said in a statement. “I have repeatedly called on Congress to pass the American Dream and Promise Act and I now renew that call with the greatest urgency.”
“It is my fervent hope that through reconciliation or other means, Congress will finally provide security to all Dreamers, who have lived too long in fear,” the statement continued.
DACA, created in 2012, grants Dreamers a tentative stay of deportation and some taxpayer benefits, giving them a chance to embed into society, though it is not permanent legal status. The Obama administration created it through a Homeland Security memo, claiming it was exercising “prosecutorial discretion” not to pursue immigration consequences of deportation against Dreamers.
Judge Hanen ruled that was a major policy change that should have gone through the full regulatory process, and he said because it didn’t, it violated the Administrative Procedures Act.
“Accordingly, the court holds that DHS was required to undergo notice and comment rulemaking in order to adopt DACA. DHS failed to engage in the statutorily mandated process, so DACA never gained status as a legally binding policy that could impose duties or obligations,” the judge wrote.
He said the hundreds of thousands of Dreamers currently protected by DACA, officially known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, have come to rely on the protection and will continue to be protected until higher courts have a chance to review his decision.
DACA was the first of the Obama administration’s attempts at a deportation amnesty through executive action, and it was announced during the 2012 election year, as the Obama campaign team was worried about his prospects with Hispanic voters.
Two years later the Obama administration tried to expand DACA to include millions of illegal immigrants who had children who were U.S. citizens or legal residents. That program was known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans, or DAPA. At the same time, DACA’s amnesty grant was expanded from two years to three years.
Judge Hanen blocked DAPA just before it was to take effect in early 2015. He also halted the expansion of DACA to three years.