Houston, Jul 17 (PTI) A federal judge in the US state of Texas has ruled as illegal the Obama-era immigration programme that shielded over 600,000 undocumented immigrants, including thousands of Indians, from deportation, dealing a blow to the Biden administration's efforts to protect people termed as “Dreamers.” Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was established under the Obama administration in 2012 and granted protection from deportation and work permits to illegal immigrants who came to the country as minors.
Granting a request by Texas and six other Republican-led states, US District Court Judge Andrew Hanen ruled that President Barack Obama's administration had overstepped its bounds by creating the programme, CNN reported.
Hanen argued that Congress had not granted the Department of Homeland Security the authority to create DACA and that it prevented immigration officials from enforcing removal provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
He found that the policy was implemented unlawfully and ordered DHS to stop approving DACA applications, although he said it could continue to accept applications and that it does not affect the status of any current DACA recipients.
Hanen, an appointee of former president George W Bush, a Republican, ruled that Congress had not granted the DHS the authority to create DACA and that it prevented immigration officials from enforcing removal provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
'Congress has not granted the Executive Branch free rein to grant lawful presence outside the ambit of the statutory scheme,' Hanen wrote.
The judge found that the agency's interpretation of statutes was 'overly broad' and those laws did not carry the authority for the federal government to institute the programme.
'DACA would grant lawful presence and work authorisation to over a million people for whom Congress had made no provision and has consistently refused to make such a provision,' Hanen wrote.
The ruling stems from a 2018 lawsuit filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and eight other states against the federal argument, The Texas Tribune said.
The complaint argues that Texas and the other states face irreparable harm because they bear extra costs from providing health care, education and law enforcement protection to DACA recipients.
President Joe Biden, a Democrat, has ordered his administration to strengthen the initiative. The US Supreme Court last year blocked a bid by former President Donald Trump, a Republican, to end the DACA.
Across the country, there are more than 600,000 DACA recipients, including 101,970 in Texas, which has the second most DACA recipients in the country after California, according to US Citizenship and Immigration Services, according to US media reports.
The ruling would bar future DACA applications. It does not immediately cancel current permits for hundreds of thousands of people -- though it once again leaves them in devastating legal limbo and is a reminder of the uncertainty they face.
Republican Party-ruled states of Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina and West Virginia joined Texas in bringing the lawsuit.
The US Congress remains the only body that can provide a permanent solution for DACA recipients through legislation, but immigration legislation has been stalled for years.
Democrats immediately called for action after Friday's order.
'As we await the swift stay that the law clearly requires, Democrats will continue to press for any and all paths to ensure that the Dream and Promise Act, now passed twice by the House, becomes the law of the land,' House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.
'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,' Pelosi, a top Democrat, said, calling Dreamers the 'pride of our nation.' Todd Schulte, president of FWD.us, a progressive organisation, expressed disappointment at the ruling, saying that DACA has been a big success that has transformed many lives.
'Today makes absolutely clear: Only a permanent legislative solution passed by Congress will eliminate the fear and uncertainty that DACA recipients have been forced to live with for years.
'We call on each and every elected office to do everything within their power so that DACA recipients and their families and communities can live free from fear, and continue to build their lives here,' Schulte said.
Immigration activists also used the ruling to renew the push for a pathway to citizenship for all illegal immigrants.
'Judge Hanen’s rash decision to suspend the DACA programme reiterates the immediate need for Congress and the Biden administration to keep their promise and create a pathway to citizenship for all undocumented people in the US,' the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services tweeted.
RAICES, a nonprofit organisation in Texas that provides legal services to immigrants, also criticised Hanen’s ruling and it demanded that Congress find a long-term solution such as a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and DACA recipients.
DACA was created former President Obama, a Democrat, to provide relief for the growing population of undocumented immigrant minors who had little to no say in their immigration process due to their youth.
Approximately 640,000 immigrants are enrolled in the DACA programme.
According to a 2019 report by South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), there were at least 630,000 Indians who are undocumented, a 72 per cent increase since 2010.
As of August 2018, there were approximately 2,550 active Indian DACA recipients. Only 13 per cent of the overall 20,000 DACA eligible Indians have applied and received DACA. PTI NSA AKJ NSA