President Biden vowed Saturday to appeal a court decision that effectively suspended an Obama-era program that shields younger immigrants from deportation. That decision, made in a ruling issued Friday by Texas federal judge Andrew Hanen, blocked the government from accepting new applications to the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), in which more than 600,000 people are currently enrolled.
Hanen’s decision was yet another setback for the Biden administration on immigration, and it has vowed to fight back. “Yesterday’s Federal court ruling is deeply disappointing,” Biden said in a White House statement. “The Department of Justice intends to appeal this decision in order to preserve and fortify DACA.” The statement also urged action from Congress. “Only Congress can ensure a permanent solution by granting a path to citizenship for Dreamers that will provide the certainty and stability that these young people need and deserve. I have repeatedly called on Congress to pass the American Dream and Promise Act, and I now renew that call with the greatest urgency.”
DACA is a program that was introduced by the Obama administration in 2012 for immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children. It shields them for deportation for up to two years, pending renewal. But the program itself was a stopgap measure by the Obama administration, after Congress had failed for years to pass any significant immigration reform.
After four years of a Trump presidency that was built on hostility toward immigrants, the Biden administration promised a “more humane and fair approach.” But Biden has already failed to live up to several early promises, including one to reunite migrant families who were separated at the border and one to raise the cap on the number of refugees legally allowed into the United States. Still, he’s scaled back Trump’s draconian immigration enforcement, recently closing two ICE detention centers and shutting down a Trump pet project that tried to link immigration to crime.
Biden reportedly deputized Vice President Kamala Harris to spearhead the administration’s efforts on immigration, but that’s proven to be largely ineffective so far. Harris is the daughter of two immigrants who often championed dreamers while she was in the United States Senate. But she may never live down the press conference in Guatemala on the administration’s behalf to understand “root causes” of migration. “To folks in this region who are thinking about making that dangerous trek to the United States-Mexico border: Do not come,” Harris said. “The United States will continue to enforce our laws and secure our border.” The political fallout for Harris has been swift, with recent media reports surfacing that Harris is either a very bad boss (Politico) or being put in a very bad spot by Biden’s team (New York Times).
Lives are at stake, immigrant advocates are quick to point out. “Today’s federal court ruling again upends the lives of hundreds of thousands of immigrant youth whose home is here; it will harm all our communities,” the National Immigration Law Center said in a statement. “It is a stark reminder of the urgency for Congress to act swiftly to pass a long overdue pathway to U.S. citizenship for immigrant youth and all 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.”