WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden said Saturday that the Justice Department intended to appeal a federal judge’s ruling deeming illegal a program enacted under President Barack Obama that has protected hundreds of thousands of young immigrants from deportation. Biden renewed his calls for Congress to create a permanent solution.
He said in a statement that Friday’s decision was “deeply disappointing,” and although the judge’s order did not affect those already covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, it ”relegates hundreds of thousands of young immigrants to an uncertain future.”
The program has allowed thousands of young people who were brought illegally into the United States as children, or overstayed visas, to live, work and remain in the country. Many of the recipients, commonly known as “Dreamers,” have now been in the U.S. for a decade or longer.
But Texas and eight other states sued to halt DACA, arguing that lacked the power to create the program because it circumvented Congress. U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen in Houston agreed, and while his ruling left the program intact for current recipients, it barred the government from approving any new applications.
In his statement, Biden urged Congress to move forward with legislation to permanently protect those covered by the program. “Only Congress can ensure a permanent solution by granting a path to citizenship for Dreamers that will provide the certainty and stability that these young people need and deserve,” the president said.
“I have repeatedly called on Congress to pass the American Dream and Promise Act, and I now renew that call with the greatest urgency,” he said. “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 House approved legislation in March creating a pathway toward citizenship for those impacted, but the measure has stalled in the Senate. Immigration advocates hope to include a provision in sweeping budget legislation Democrats want to pass this year, but it’s unclear whether that language will survive.
Calling the ruling a “blaring siren” for Democrats, United We Dream Executive Director Greisa Martinez Rosas said they would be solely to blame if legislative reform didn’t happen.
“Until the president and Democrats in Congress deliver on citizenship, the lives of millions will remain on the line,” Martinez Rosas said.
The program has faced a roller coaster of court challenges since Obama instituted it in June 2012. President Donald Trump’s administration announced it was ending the program in September 2017, but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2020 that the administration hadn’t ended the program properly, keeping it alive once more.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in a statement Friday evening, vowed that Democrats would continue to push for passage of the DREAM Act, and called on Republicans “to join us in respecting the will of the American people and the law, to ensure that Dreamers have a permanent path to citizenship.”
In Friday’s ruling, Hanen wrote that the states had proved “the hardship that the continued operation of DACA has inflicted on them.” He continued: “Furthermore, the government has no legitimate interest in the continuation of an illegally implemented program.”
Biden has already proposed legislation that would provide a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million people living in the U.S. without authorization. He also ordered agencies to make efforts to preserve the program.
Supporters of DACA, including those who argued before Hanen to save it, have said a law passed by Congress is necessary to provide permanent relief. Hanen has said Congress must act if the U.S. wants to provide the protections in DACA to recipients commonly known as “Dreamers,” based on never-passed proposals in Congress called the DREAM Act.
While DACA is often described as a program for young immigrants, many recipients have lived in the U.S. for a decade or longer after being brought into the country without permission or overstaying visas. The liberal Center for American Progress says roughly 254,000 children have at least one parent relying on DACA. Some recipients are grandparents.
Todd Schulte, president of FWD.us, a progressive organization, expressed disappointment at Friday’s ruling, saying in a statement that DACA has been a big success that has transformed many lives.
“Today makes absolutely clear: only a permanent legislative solution passed by Congress will eliminate the fear and uncertainty that DACA recipients have been forced to live with for years. We call on each and every elected office to do everything within their power so that DACA recipients and their families and communities can live free from fear, and continue to build their lives here,” Schulte said.