In a lengthy opinion, United States District Court Judge Andrew Hanen ruled that the implementation of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) violates the Administrative Procedure Act, which governs federal rulemaking. Judge Hanen’s decision is, however, limited to new applications, and does not affect current DACA recipients, nor does it bar future renewal applications for immigrants now protected under the program. President Biden has stated he will appeal the decision.
DACA, instituted at the end of Former President Obama’s first term in office, protected from deportation immigrants who had entered the United States as children prior to June 2007 and had no significant criminal record. Over the past nine years, over 800,000 young people have been protected from deportation under DACA, and over 600,000 people currently have DACA. While these individuals are not affected by the decision, approximately 81,000 immigrants with first-time DACA applications pending with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will be, as will any others who planned on filing for relief in the future.
New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez denounced the decision but insisted it was a call to action, stating that “the ruling was not a surprise, just a painful reminder that we need to stop relying on temporary immigration fixes. Congress must seize the moment and any and all opportunities to finally provide a pathway to legalization for millions of undocumented immigrants.”
President Biden has also said that he finds the decision “deeply disappointing” and that the Department of Justice will appeal the decision. He further indicated that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) plans to issue a proposed rule on DACA “in the near future,” a position subsequently reaffirmed by DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who said the DHS plans to “preserve and fortify DACA” with additional policy changes. President Biden also renewed his request to Congress to pass the American Dream and Promise Act, which had already passed the House earlier this year. The act would provide “conditional permanent resident status” for several categories of immigrants, including DACA recipients.
As of now, new applications for DACA remain in limbo. USCIS has issued a statement on its website that “it will continue to accept the filing of both initial and renewal DACA requests,” but pursuant to the court order, it “is prohibited from granting initial DACA requests and accompanying requests for employment authorization.” The Norris McLaughlin Immigration Law Blog, “Immigration Matters,” will continue to follow this story as it develops.
On Tuesday morning, over 50 immigration activists gathered to blockade the entrance of the Newark Field Office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”), the federal agency responsible for physically removing immigrants from the United States. The activists barricaded the driveway to the complex – some standing and others sitting, some arm-in-arm while others held pipes between them to prevent traffic into the facility – as part of a protest the continued detention of immigrants.
Although several state prisons in New Jersey have either stopped or limited the detention of immigrants and moved to end their contracts with ICE to house detainees, the transfers of detainees from the facilities to other centers around the United States have continued. One protester, Haydi Torres, as first reported on newjersey.com, stated that “every day ICE transfers people in detention in the dead of night from one location to another, without telling people why or where they are going, without notifying family or lawyers.”
The protest peacefully ended shortly after 11:00 a.m. with no arrests.