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Last Friday, federal Judge Andrew Hanen issued his long-awaiting ruling in the latest legal challenge to DACA brought by Texas and a handful of other red states. In a surprise, Judge Hanen refused to issue an injunction in the case, meaning that DACA renewals will likely continue for the foreseeable future. While only Congress can deliver the permanent legislative solution that Dreamers need and deserve, Judge Hanen’s ruling is a welcome and surprising rebuke to the strategy of Ken Paxton and Jeff Sessions to end DACA once and for all.
According to Juan Escalante, DACA recipient and Communications Manager at America’s Voice:
The DACA program lives! Judge Hanen ruled against the state of Texas. What a surprise. Four federal judges throughout the nation have ruled that DACA renewals should continue. That’s terrific. Now we need Congress to get serious about a permanent solution.
A Vox analysis from Dara Lind, titled “Trump just lost his best chance to kill DACA this year,” is an excellent primer on the Hanen ruling and its potential significance. We excerpt key portions below:
In the absence of a stop from Hanen, the Trump administration will have to continue accepting and processing two-year renewals of protection from deportation and work permits for the 690,000 unauthorized immigrants who came to the US as children already covered by DACA.
Hanen decided that the group of red states suing the Trump administration to end DACA waited too long to challenge the legality of the program.
…The ruling doesn’t mean DACA is safe. The program has already been closed to new applicants, and it’s expected that the Supreme Court, with an eventual five-conservative majority, will rule that the Trump administration had the legal authority to wind down the program in 2017.
But the question of how long DACA renewals will be available is a crucial one for the immigrants currently protected by the program and trying to figure out how to stay protected for as long as possible. Friday’s ruling means they could be safe through June 2019.
…Hanen’s refusal to grant a preliminary injunction against DACA is extremely surprising. The group of red states, led by Texas, who sued the Trump administration to end the program (after federal judges in California, New York, and DC ordered them to keep processing renewal applications) deliberately filed their case in Hanen’s court because of his record on immigration issues.
Most notably, Hanen had all but declared DACA unconstitutional while ruling against the Obama administration’s efforts to expand DACA in 2014 (as well as against a larger program to grant deportation protection and work permits to parents of US citizens).
In that case, Hanen issued a preliminary injunction against the Obama administration — preventing it from implementing an expansion of DACA while he considered the case in full — mere days before it was set to start. He was expected to issue a similar ruling in this case, ordering the government to stop processing renewals preliminarily while hearing the case more fully.
But in Friday’s ruling, Hanen drew a clear distinction between ordering the government to stop something before it starts and ordering it to stop something it’s already doing:
…If Hanen had issued an order to stop DACA, the Trump administration would have faced mutually contradictory judicial injunctions — pitting the Texas one against the California, New York, and DC ones — creating a legal paradox that the Supreme Court would have had to resolve over its summer recess, and raising huge questions about what the Trump administration would do with DACA renewal applications in the meantime.
But the paradox didn’t emerge, because Hanen isn’t issuing an injunction to counter the others. The paradox could still happen. Hanen gave the federal government 21 days to appeal the lack of an injunction to the Fifth Circuit, which is a pretty conservative circuit court — and it’s possible they’d be willing to overlook the timeliness issue. But it’s not likely that they’d go further than Hanen would.
Without that legal paradox, the Trump administration will have to wait for one of the four DACA-related lawsuits to make it to a circuit court ruling and then appeal to the Supreme Court. At this point, it’s unlikely the Court would hear the case until spring of 2019 — making a ruling in late June of 2019 most likely.
A nine-month lease on life for DACA might not sound like much. But because DACA is valid for two years after a renewal, it could make a big difference for hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients, who are trying to stay protected for as long as possible.