Obama’s Dreamers programme is illegal, US court rules

President Joe Biden vows to appeal judge’s decision against DACA

Photo: AP

A US federal judge on Friday dealt a fresh blow to an immigration programme protecting undocumented migrants brought to the country as children, ruling it unlawful and blocking the enrollment of new applicants, news wires reported. Instituted by former president Barack Obama in 2012, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) covers around 700,000 people known as Dreamers.

For many, America is the only country they have ever known.

In his ruling, Judge Andrew Hanen of the United States District Court in Houston said Obama exceeded his authority when he instituted DACA by executive order. The government must stop accepting people to the programme, he said, though he added it could still receive applications.

He said the ruling did not require the Department of Homeland Security or Department of Justice to "take any immigration, deportation, or criminal action against any DACA recipient, applicant, or any other individual that it would not otherwise take."

The ruling also did not immediately affect the status of people already accepted to the programme.

To apply for DACA protection, which also allows the right to work, applicants must have arrived in the United States before age 16.

Applicants must be in school or have a high school degree or equivalent, or have been honorably discharged from the military and have a clean criminal record.

In 2017, then-president Donald Trump tried to dismantle it on grounds that it was unconstitutional, triggering a lengthy court battle.

Challenges to the phase-out of the programme eventually ended up on the nation's top court.

President Joe Biden on Saturday denounced as "deeply disappointing" the federal judge's decision.  In a statement from the White House, Biden said the Justice Department would appeal the ruling by Texas-based Judge Andrew Hanen, while adding that "only Congress can ensure a permanent solution by granting a path to citizenship for Dreamers." Since taking office, President Joe Biden has looked to strengthen the programme, as well as initiate wider immigration reform.

Democrats in Congress have pushed for legislation that would permanently settle the status of the childhood arrivals, but immigration policies have long stalled. "Democrats call on Republicans in Congress to join us in respecting the will of the American people and the law, to ensure that Dreamers have a permanent path to citizenship," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said after Friday's ruling.

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