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ERLC urges protections for Dreamers after court leaves DACA in limbo


BROWNSVILLE, Texas (BP) – The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is again urging Congress to prevent the deportation of more than a half million undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.

The latest statement from the ERLC comes after a federal judge declared illegal the revised Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in a Sept. 13 ruling, but allowed the program to remain in place for immigrants already enrolled.

“It is imperative that we find a permanent legislative solution for our neighbors known as Dreamers,” ERLC President Brent Leatherwood told Baptist Press. “The decision by the Southern District of Texas places these vulnerable individuals at risk for deportation, splitting apart families and tearing down safeguards put in place to protect them.

“As this decision is now in the hands of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, we urge Congress to take steps now that provide stability for Dreamers who contribute to our society as our neighbors, friends and colleagues.”

U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen sided with Texas and eight other plaintiff states who argue that the DACA “Final Rule” oversteps the authority of the executive branch and circumvents Congress. The Final Rule was a Department of Homeland Security attempt essentially to uphold DACA as established in a 2012 DHS memorandum already declared unconstitutional, Hanen said in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas in Brownsville.

“There is no material difference between the two programs. As such, the Final Rule suffers from the same legal impediments,” Hanen wrote. “To be clear, neither this order nor the accompanying supplemental injunction requires the DHS or the Department of Justice to take any immigration, deportation, or criminal action against any DACA recipient, applicant, or any other individual that would otherwise not be taken.”

ERLC is among many, including President Joe Biden, urging Congress to create a legal pathway to citizenship for Dreamers. But Congress has failed to act.

DHS will continue to process renewals for current DACA recipients and “may continue to accept DACA applicants,” the White House said in a press statement after the ruling.

DACA has faced legal challenges for nearly a decade, and the ERLC has long urged a legal pathway to citizenship for Dreamers who are here illegally through no fault of their own. The Trump administration rescinded the Obama-era program, but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2020 that Trump improperly ended DACA and allowed it to remain in place.

Established in 2012 by then Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, DACA established certain protections and benefits for certain illegal immigrants who entered the country unlawfully as children. Qualifying immigrants are allowed to remain in the country indefinitely through a renewable two-year period of deferred action, Hanen said in his background summary of the case.

The program not only evades Congressional oversight but is cost prohibitive for states, Texas and other plaintiffs have said, including Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina, West Virginia, Kansas and Mississippi.

Hanen originally ruled DACA illegal in 2021. When an appeals court upheld his ruling the following year, the court returned the case to him for review in light of the Final Rule amendments to the program.

About 580,000 immigrants from 200 countries are currently enrolled in DACA, according to federal statistics.