A Texas federal judge’s ruling that ends future participation in a program protecting 800,000 undocumented youths and young adults puts pressure on Congress to find a permanent fix.
This is an opportunity for Congress to show it is not a dysfunctional body and can find common ground for the greater good.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals was never a good or long-term solution to the mess of U.S. immigration laws. It was a bandage meant to encourage congressional action that never came.
DACA was created in the image of the Dream Act, which has been pending in Congress since 2001. It allows for children brought into the country illegally by their parents to have a pathway to citizenship if they meet standards such as educational achievement, employment and staying away from crime.
The first youths who would have benefited from the law are now in their 30s, and many are enrolled in DACA. Those young adults are now in the workforce, and 87% of eligible youths are seeking undergraduate degrees and 13% are in graduate programs.
They have married and purchased homes, and at least 200,000 children — U.S. citizens — have been born to this group. Yet these young adults are still legally undocumented and cannot become American citizens.
It’s an embarrassment Congress let worsen.
DACA came from presidential orders by President Barack Obama out of frustration with Congress. It prioritizes deportations by letting youths stay in the country and work as long as they do not commit crimes.
Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision kept the Trump administration from dismantling the program. It addressed a narrow legal aspect that found that former Attorney General Jeff Sessions had not provided justification for the program’s rescission, making it “arbitrary and capricious.”
Last week, a federal judge in Texas found that the program violated the Administrative Procedure Act, pointing to not getting comment from the general public. The ruling blocks new applicants to the program, but enrolled people will not be affected for now.
The Biden administration says it will appeal, setting up another possible U.S. Supreme Court decision. This can all be avoided if Congress will do its job.
Presidential orders are no way to govern a country. They can last only as long as the president’s term — and sometimes less than that.
If Congress will craft a law specific to the issues of DACA and avoid partisan pressure to throw in unrelated issues and politically poisonous provisions, bipartisan support is possible.
Leaders from both parties have expressed a desire to help undocumented children and youths who were put into this situation by no fault of their own.
U.S. immigration laws evolved as punitive measures. It’s time to modernize the system, and a good start is giving a legal pathway to the Dreamers who want to be Americans.