A federal district judge on Friday denied the state of Texas’ request that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program be put on hold after Texas and nine other states sued to halt the Obama-era program.
DACA was launched in 2012 and grants recipients a renewable, two-year work permit and a reprieve from deportation proceedings for immigrants who were brought to the United States while they were children. U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen said the states could likely prove that DACA causes the states irreparable harm. But Hanen wrote that the states delayed in seeking the relief for years. He added that there was an abundance of evidence to show that ending the program “was in contrary to the best interests of the public.”
His decision means that hundreds of thousands of the program's recipients can continue applying to renew their status — for now.
"Here, the egg has been scrambled. To try to put it back in the shell with only a preliminary injunction record, and perhaps at great risk to many, does not make sense nor serve the best interests of this country," Hanen wrote.
In a statement, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton nonetheless cheered Hanen's decision, saying the judge's statement about irreparable harm was an indication that Texas would ultimately win the case.
He cited Hanen's ruling against the 2014 Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA, as proof that legal precedent was on the state's side, despite Hanen's denial Friday of the state's request.
“We’re now very confident that DACA will soon meet the same fate as the Obama-era Deferred Action for Parents of Americans program, which the courts blocked after I led another state coalition challenging its constitutionality,” Attorney General Paxton said. “President Obama used DACA to rewrite federal law without congressional approval."
The order is on hold for 21 days to allow time for an appeal. If an appeal isn't asked for, Hanen said the court would then proceed with the case.
Pete Boogaard, the communications director of FWD.us, an immigrant rights advocacy group, said the decision is welcome news, but DACA recipients shouldn't proclaim an outright victory.
"This ruing means that DACA renewals are going to continue in the near term, and that's good news," he said. "We're under no illusion that the opponents of DACA are going to stop and we strongly encourage DACA recipients who are eligible to renew" their DACA status.
Hanen heard arguments on whether to preliminarily halt the program more than three weeks ago. That came nearly a year after President Donald Trump promised to end DACA in September by phasing it out over six months.
But three different courts have since ruled that the administration must keep the program intact for now. As of last September there were about 120,000 DACA beneficiaries in Texas and more than 800,000 nationwide.
After Paxton filed the lawsuit, the Trump administration agreed the program was unlawful, which led the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund to ask Hanen to intervene on behalf of several DACA recipients.
The case will now likely proceed to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, said Nina Perales, MALDEF's vice-president of litigation, who argued the case earlier this month.
She said she disagreed with Hanen's assertion that the way DACA was implemented violated the federal Administrative Procedures Act, which governs how federal regulations are made, and said Paxton's predictions that Texas will succeed are overshadowed by Friday's decision.
"The question that was presented to the court was decided in our favor. General Paxton can make predictions about what will happen later in this case," she said. "But General Paxton lost today and DACA recipients won today. We have three federal court injunctions keeping DACA alive right now. Texas was hoping that Judge Hanen wold enter an injunction going in the other direction and Judge Hanen declined to do that."