A federal judge in Texas declined to put an immediate halt to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program Friday, even as he said the program is probably illegal. In the case, Texas and nine other states have sued to end DACA, claiming that former President Barack Obama acted unlawfully when he created the program in 2012.

Key points:

  • District Judge Andrew Hanen declined to enjoin DACA, saying that the states’ delay in seeking relief and the “balance of private interests” cut against the states’ request to immediately halt the program. For now, DACA will continue operating as it has been for months: the Department of Homeland Security will continue accepting renewals, but will not accept new applications.
  • Hanen also wrote that the program is probably illegal, saying that it “likely violates” the Administrative Procedure Act. He also noted that it involves “virtually the same” legal issues as a 2015 case in which Hanen ruled to halt the Obama administration’s DACA expansion and the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program. Hanen’s ruling was upheld on appeal.

Background: DACA has been the source of extensive litigation this year. President Donald Trump moved to end the program last year, but plaintiffs sued and federal courts in California, New York and Washington, D.C. all ruled that the administration must continue accepting renewal applications while legal challenges play out. The Texas case is different because it does not challenge Trump’s decision to end DACA, but rather whether Obama had the legal authority to establish it in the first place. A ruling in favor of the states on the merits of their case, which seems likely based on Hanen’s reasoning, could set up a scenario where the U.S. Supreme Court would weigh in to determine the legality of DACA and Trump’s decision to end it.

BAL Analysis: The ruling means that for the time being, DHS will continue accepting renewal applications, but not new applications under the DACA program. BAL will continue to provide updates as the DACA litigation continues in federal courts in Texas and elsewhere.

This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice group. For additional information, please contact berryapplemanleiden@bal.com.

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