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Dreamers' future status in legal limbo after court ruling

FILE - In this Sept. 5, 2017 file photo, several people gathered on the plaza of the J.J.Pickle federal Building to protest President Donald Trump's decision to rescind DACA. (Ralph Barrera/Austin American-Statesman via AP)
FILE - In this Sept. 5, 2017 file photo, several people gathered on the plaza of the J.J.Pickle federal Building to protest President Donald Trump's decision to rescind DACA. (Ralph Barrera/Austin American-Statesman via AP)
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An Obama-era immigration rule that gave protection from deportation and provided work permits to immigrants brought to the U.S. as children is in jeopardy after a federal appeals court determined a judge who said it violates the country’s immigration law should take another look at the policy.

A three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in Louisiana ordered a district judge who has already declared the policy unlawful after revisions were made over the summer. Current recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, are still protected but facing legal uncertainty moving forward.

The district judge who will review DACA is U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen, who declared DACA was illegal last year because it wasn’t subjected to public notice and comment periods. He will have another look at the new version of the rule from the Biden administration in August, which takes effect Oct. 31.

Biden’s rules are similar to the rules DACA was already operating under and went through public comments to shield it from court rulings. Even still, the future of the program is up in the air without congressional action.

The president said it is long past time for Congress to pass permanent protection for dreamers and blamed Republican state officials pushing an “extreme agenda.”

“The court’s stay provides a temporary reprieve for DACA recipients but one thing remains clear: the lives of Dreamers remain in limbo,” Biden said Wednesday. “Today’s decision is the result of continued efforts by Republican state officials to strip DACA recipients of the protections and work authorization that many have now held for over a decade. And while we will use the tools we have to allow Dreamers to live and work in the only country they know as home, it is long past time for Congress to pass permanent protections for Dreamers, including a pathway to citizenship.”

Texas is leading a lawsuit with eight other Republican-controlled states challenging DACA, alleging it was an overreach of the government’s immigration powers. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton praised the panel’s ruling.

“The appeals court just AFFIRMED my team’s trial court win. DACA—part of Dems’ program to flood our country with aliens—is illegal & will stay enjoined. Huge victory for the Rule of Law in America!” Paxton said in a tweet.

DACA is expected to make its way to the Supreme Court for the third time. In 2016, the Supreme Court deadlocked 4-4 on an expansion to the program and a version for parents of its recipients, leaving a lower court’s decision to block benefits in place. In 2020, it allowed DACA to remain in place after a 5-4 ruling that the Trump administration didn’t follow federal procedures when it tried to end it.

Advocacy groups and organizations that help immigrants settle in the U.S. called for Congress to pass a bill to address the issue as thousands will now have their right to stay and work in America stuck in legal limbo.

“It is time for the rubber to meet the road. Congress must finally come through on their promises and take the threat against immigrants seriously. Today’s DACA decision — alongside the past decades of racist anti-immigrant attacks — is part of an agenda to put millions of people on a path to detention and deportation,” said Greisa Martínez Rosas, executive director of United We Dream.

Congress has gone back and forth on immigration proposals over the years to find a solution on a bill to provide a path to citizenship for dreamers based on the DREAM Act but have never been able to get a bill through both chambers.

Polling has found a majority of Americans on both sides of the aisle support a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers.

Republicans have highlighted issues at the southern border and the immigration system leading up to the midterm elections and are unlikely to give Democrats a win on the issue ahead of November.

On his first day in office, Biden sent a bill overhauling the nation’s immigration systems to Congress and little progress has been made getting the legislation to his desk. Any bill that could achieve Republican support would likely require Democrats to make considerable concessions on border security measures, which have been a sticking point in the past.

The White House is reportedly mulling whether to make a bigger push for immigration reform after the midterm elections.

Without congressional action, Dreamers and people hoping to gain access to the program are with limited options moving forward.

“The Fifth Circuit decision jeopardizes it all – forcing hundreds of thousands of young people and their families to plan for an uncertain future, including possible deportation from the only country they call home,” said Lorella Praeli, co-president of Community Change Action. “We’ve always known that DACA isn’t enough. The Fifth Circuit’s decision is our latest confirmation and makes Congressional action as urgent as ever.”

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