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Federal District Court Invalidates DACA Regulation But Maintains Benefits for Current Grantees

A federal district judge has ruled that the Biden Administration’s 2022 DACA regulation is unlawful on the grounds that it violates the Administrative Procedure Act — the same basis for an earlier ruling striking down the Obama Administration memorandum that created the program. The ruling maintains the status quo for current DACA beneficiaries, who preserve their deportation relief and employment authorization, and who can continue to submit applications for renewal of their benefits. No applications for new DACA benefits can be approved, however.

The issue

Federal District Judge Andrew S. Hanen of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas has ruled invalid a Biden Administration regulation that sought to preserve the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. However, Judge Hanen left in place a stay of an earlier injunction against DACA, which allows existing DACA grantees to preserve and renew their current benefits but prohibits new grants of DACA.

Judge Hanen found that the 2022 DACA regulation is inconsistent with federal immigration statutes and violates the Administrative Procedure Act on a number of substantive grounds.  The judge noted that the regulation does not differ substantially from the 2012 Obama Administration memorandum that established the program. The 2012 memorandum was struck down in an earlier ruling, which was affirmed by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2022; at the time, the Fifth Circuit remanded the case to the District Court to consider whether the invalidation also applied to the 2022 regulation, which was promulgated after the 2012 memorandum was struck down.

In a statement released late yesterday after Judge Hanen’s ruling, the Department of Homeland Security confirmed that it will continue to accept and process renewal applications from current DACA beneficiaries, and urged Congress to create a legislative solution for Dreamers.

The Biden Administration is expected to appeal Judge Hanen’s decision to the Fifth Circuit.

What this means for DACA beneficiaries and employers

Though the DACA regulation has been ruled unlawful, Judge Hanen reemphasized that his stay of a court order vacating the DACA program remains in place. This allows existing beneficiaries to retain their current deportation relief and employment authorization. In addition, current DACA beneficiaries may continue to submit applications for renewal. However, no new grants of DACA are permitted.

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