Federal judge with ties to the Valley halts DACA enrollment

A federal judge with ties to the Rio Grande Valley ruled on Friday to bar new enrollees into DACA, a federal program that provides deportation relief to immigrant children brought into the U.S. illegally by their parents.

U.S. District Court Judge Andrew S. Hanen ordered the government to cease granting status protection under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also known as DACA, to new applicants, though USCIS can continue taking applications due to a previous court ruling.

Friday’s decision will not affect the nearly 8,700 active recipients who live in the Rio Grande Valley or the overall 616,000 people across the country who already have DACA status.

The injunction does not compel DHS to deport or pursue criminal action against any recipient or applicant.

The decision came as a result of a lawsuit filed in Brownsville by the State of Texas and eight other conservative states to halt DACA in 2018.

Hanen was serving as a district judge in Brownsville up until 2018. Republican president George H.W. Bush appointed him to serve in 2002. He was moved to the Houston Division to be closer to his daughter.

The Associated Press reported Friday that Hanen had rejected Texas’ request in 2018 to stop the program through a preliminary injunction, but in a foreshadowing of his latest ruling, the judge said then that he believed DACA, as enacted, was likely unconstitutional and put the onus on Congress to preserve it.

The decision can be appealed to the Supreme Court or be altered by Congress.

“It is far past time Congress does right by undocumented immigrants. Rio Grande Valley Members of Congress must have courage and act boldly,” Daniel Diaz, director of community organizing for La Union del Pueblo Entero, urged in a written statement.

“Their inaction leaves immigrant youth, TPS holders, farmworkers and essential workers vulnerable to attacks from Governor Abbott and other power-hungry politicians. Our congressmen cannot come home for August recess without delivering a path to Citizenship for undocumented people. Literally right now, Congress has the avenue they need in the budget reconciliation process. RGV Members of Congress, you have the path and no excuses. Immigrant youth won DACA and will not stop fighting until all people without documents can live free and thrive.”

Efforts to propose a solution creating a citizenship pathway are underway on both sides of the aisle.

Republican U.S. Senators John Cornyn and Thom Tillis from North Carolina sent a letter to Illinois Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin on Friday.

“We ask that you schedule a markup of a bill that only addresses the population with the most urgent need: active DACA recipients,” the letter stated. “In addition, Senators should be free to offer reasonable amendments to this bill through an open amendment process, and receive an up-or down vote on these amendments. We expect that such amendments would likely include proposals related to border security, interior enforcement and employment verification programs.”

U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez also released a statement late Friday vowing to act in favor of Dreamers.

“I am deeply disappointed by this ruling and will continue to fight for a pathway for citizenship for these young people,” he said. “It’s now on Congress to ensure that we codify these protections for Dreamers.”

Changes are yet to appear on the U.S. Citizens and Immigration Services’s DACA website, but the decision must be published within three days from the date the order was filed.