More than a decade has passed since the establishment of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The program, issued by Obama in 2012, gave thousands of undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children a chance at life out of the shadows.   

For most of that time, DACA has fended off right-wing attacks and has been embroiled in court battles over its legality.

In the program’s latest setback, Texas federal judge Andrew Hanen ruled on Sept. 13 that the Biden Administration’s 2022 attempt to formalize DACA was unlawful. 

In response to the ruling, the non-profit Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund held a press briefing on Sept. 15, inviting a panel of experts to weigh in on the ruling.

While Hanen’s ruling disallows new DACA applications, renewals for current DACA recipients are still allowed. 

Hanen’s ruling also comes as a result of a Texas-led, multi-state challenge to DACA. But in that multi-state challenge, Texas has been the only one to claim that it was injured by DACA. 

“Our argument is that Texas has never shown any evidence that it was injured by DACA,” said Nina Perales, MALDEF’s V.P. of Litigation. However, Hanen threw out MALDEF’s litigation, despite that lack of evidence. 

Gaby Pacheco, a longtime Dreamer advocate and former DACA recipient who is now with the undocumented student scholarship program, The Dream.US, spoke to the emotional impact this ruling has on Dreamers and DACA recipients. 

“We all know dreamers are extremely resilient individuals who have shown remarkable determination despite the challenges they face,” Pacheco said. “And it’s just disheartening that we have to continue to live case by case. It’s been 10 years.”

Pacheco described the frustration, fear and exhaustion among the DACAmented people she knows. 

“They are in a roller coaster ride of emotions. And they have to experience — they’ve been experiencing — this ongoing legal battle,” Pacheco said. “And for me, I feel it’s not just cruel, but it’s also heartwrenching that Congress and others that have the power to do something, haven’t done something yet.”

Pacheco’s message to Dreamers and the DACAmented: “I want them to know that they’re more than a piece of paper. I want them to know that their worth is not tied to their status. That they’re not alone. That there are millions of people that support them and that are advocating for them. And that this decision is not the end.”

MALDEF partner attorney, Doug Hallward-Driemeier with Ropes & Gray LLP, said they plan to appeal Hanan’s ruling, which is due within 60 days. 

“We will continue to fight this fight as before,” Hallward-Driemeier. “There are arguments for us to make at the court of appeals, we will pursue those arguments both in the court of appeals and if necessary, seek review by the Supreme Court.”