What’s next for DACA: Court battles and pressure on Congress

Democrats pushed to pass legislation to protect DACA recipients as DOJ moves to appeal ruling striking down program

Pressure has intensified on Congress to find a legislative solution for hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants after a Texas federal judge struck down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that shielded them against deportation and provided other protections.

Liberal lawmakers who spent weeks pushing for the inclusion of immigration provisions in the upcoming budget reconciliation bill said the need to enshrine permanent legal protections for immigrants into law is greater than ever following Friday’s ruling that affected the Obama-era program. 

“DACA empowered undocumented youth to come out of the shadows and contribute to our communities in immeasurable ways — from serving in our military to being on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic,” Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., said in a statement.

“The U.S. is the only home that Dreamers have ever known, and they should not be forced to live in fear of deportation,” she added, using the popular term for DACA recipients.

The Biden administration pledged to appeal the ruling, but the decision raises the specter of numerous other legal battles at federal courts across the country on related litigation over DACA, which also provides work permits for certain undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as minors. 

The ruling late Friday by U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen of the Southern District of Texas shields current recipients but blocks approval of new DACA applications, including those of roughly 55,000 already in the pipeline, increasing the urgency of finding a permanent solution for Dreamers.