© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Protesters hold signs outside the US Supreme Court as justices were scheduled to hear oral arguments in the consolidation of three cases before the court regarding the Trump administration’s attempt to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals
By Ted Hesson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A federal appeals court ruled on Wednesday that a program that has shielded hundreds of thousands of young immigrants from deportation was illegal, but said current enrollees could renew their status and sent the case back to a lower court to consider a new Biden administration regulation.
A three-judge panel of the conservative-leaning 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s ruling against the program, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), but remanded the case in light of a new regulation issued in August.
The decision is a mixed one for US President Joe Biden, a Democrat who has said he wants a permanent path to citizenship for DACA recipients – commonly known as “Dreamers”.
The court allowed the current 594,000 DACA enrollees to maintain their status, but continues to block new applications.
In remanding the case, the appeals court said it did not have enough information to make a decision on the new regulation, which is due to come into effect on October 31, but that the case should be resolved as soon as possible.
The 46-page opinion signaled that the justices were skeptical of DACA’s legality.
“The legal issues presented by DACA are serious, both for the parties and for the public,” they wrote. “In our view, the defendants have not shown that there is a likelihood that they will succeed in the case.”
Former President Barack Obama, a Democrat under whom Biden served as vice president, created DACA in 2012 after efforts by the US Congress to grant citizenship to immigrants brought to the country as children failed.
Texas and a coalition of states with Republican attorneys general sued in 2018 to end DACA, arguing that it was illegally implemented. In July 2021, U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen in Texas sided with the states.
Hanen’s decision blocked the processing of new DACA applications, but pre-existing DACA recipients were allowed to continue receiving benefits and apply for renewal.
The Biden administration appealed the decision and sent the case to the 5th Circuit.
Individuals with DACA status can obtain work permits, a Social Security number, and in some states receive driver’s licenses and financial aid for education.
DACA recipients have faced years of uncertainty and legal wrangling. Biden’s predecessor, former Republican President Donald Trump, tried to end the program but was blocked by the Supreme Court.
The statement issued Wednesday was authored by an appointee of former President George W. Bush, a Republican, who was joined by two Trump appointees.
Biden came into office promising to work toward a long-term solution for the “Dreamers,” but Republicans and Democrats have not found much common ground on immigration in recent years, making a legal solution before the Nov. 8 midterm elections unlikely.