Dreamers Still in Limbo After Court Ruling


Last updated 11/2/2018 at 10:36am

While safe for now, and only safe until possibly June 2019, kids covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program remain in a state of limbo following the ruling of Texas federal judge Andrew Hanen.

He denied “temporary injunctive relief” that would have all but ended the DACA program. For a judge who is known in the legal community to be consistently anti-immigration in his rulings, even he could not stomach the illogic of petitioners’ justification for ending the DACA program immediately.

DACA is an American immigration policy established by the Obama administration in 2012, which allowed some individuals who entered the country as minors a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation, and to be eligible for a work permit.

“At Borrego Springs High School, we are experiencing the direct consequences of confusion and fear surrounding the uncertainty of DACA,” Martha Deichler, Borrego Springs Unified School District School Community Liaison, said. “Students are applying for jobs and filling out college applications. For those undocumented students whose first time application for DACA had not been submitted by Sept. 5, 2017, they are now unable to apply for DACA status. Those who are waiting for approval of their current DACA status are truly hanging in frightening limbo.”

The results of this and other legal challenges to DACA show up as a series of simultaneous conflicting court orders serving only to muddy the waters for kids affected by the delay of enactment of the “Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors” Act (Dreamers). A clear example is when Judge Hanen chided petitioners for both not seeking relief in a timely fashion, and most importantly not providing “a coherent explanation” in their filings when they did file.

“This court will not succumb to the temptation to set aside legal principles and to substitute its judgment in lieu of legislative action,” wrote Hanen in his surprising opinion. “If the nation truly wants to have a DACA program, it is up to Congress to say so.”

And therein lies the problem – After the Dream Act passed the House in 2010, it failed to pass in the Senate. It has since languished as an Executive Order subject to legal challenge by the courts while it awaits congressional passage. These challenges have been, according to several previous court rulings, thinly disguised policy differences absent sound justification and appropriate legal analysis.

The program was rescinded by President Donald Trump’s administration in Sept. 5, 2017. Congress had until March of this year to act, according to Trump, putting over 800,000 dreamers in jeopardy of being deported.

Hanen had previously laid out in his April order an insistence that the Texas petitioners clarify their challenge “either by providing a coherent explanation of its legal opinion or by reissuing its decision for bona fide policy reasons that would preclude judicial review.”

Despite the shortcomings of the petition to eliminate DACA, it should be remembered that the Supreme Court split 4-4 on whether a program similar to DACA is lawful. Therefore, a newly confirmed justice will be the deciding vote, and Hanen wrote that he believed DACA “will be declared illegal in the long run.”

“Recently one such student was close to tears while participating in a local job fair and realized that her application could not be completed when asked for a social security number. Many of our students’ lives are in turmoil due to the future uncertainty of the DACA ruling,” Deichler said.

The upshot of Hanen’s ruling is that he and other federal judges will continue to kick the DACA can down the road until either Congress acts to pass legislation like the Dream Act or when the Supreme Court rules on DACA in some future 5 – 4 decision once the 9th associate justice is confirmed.

On a separate immigration-related item, the news outlet Politico reports that providers of child nutrition programs in at least 18 states say they have seen drops in enrollment for undocumented immigrant children.

The Trump administration’s proposed ruling “punishing immigrants” for using or even applying for assistance programs has resulted in immigrants’ belief that their path to legalization would be in jeopardy. The proposed ruling has not yet gone into effect.

According to immigration experts (and Andrea Taylor below), the word for students is still: Keep filing for renewal!

“Over the past couple of years, I have worked closely with a number of DACA students within BSUSD. A year ago I assisted with setting up a ‘Dream Club,’” Taylor said.

“We spent the year educating the Borrego community on DACA and raising funds to pay for a number of DACA renewals and for two Dream Club scholarships that were awarded in June. The Dream Club is continuing this year, with a wonderful group of young people, whose mission is educate and continue to fundraise for their DACA/Undocumented friends. I think the most important information that I can give to the DACA community is to continue to renew your DACA status while renewals are still being accepted. You are able to send in your renewal early; you do not need to wait until 150 days prior to expiration of your current employment card; and recipients are sending their renewals up to a year early to guarantee a renewal. You do need to be aware that if your renewal is approved early, your new employment card will start from the date of “approval” for two years, rather than the expiration date of your current card.”

If anyone in the community needs information on DACA or assistance with renewing their status please contact Taylor via the school.