Nevada lawmakers and advocates denounced a federal court decision that could ultimately threaten the immigration status of more than 11,000 residents in the state.
“DACA is on borrowed time,” said Michael Kagan, director of UNLV’s Immigration Clinic, said of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy.
Texas-based U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen ruled Tuesday that DACA — which prevents the deportation of nearly 600,000 immigrants who were brought illegally into the U.S. as children — is illegal, although he declined to immediately end the program.
The current order doesn’t apply to current recipients, but that can change on appeal, and the case is expected to reach the Supreme Court, which could choose to end the program and the protection of current recipients.
DACA recipients, also known as “Dreamers,” renew permits every two years, which allow them to live and work in the U.S.
“I think the sound legal advice to any person who has DACA is very depressing,” Kagan said. He added that the end of the policy is “a very real possibility.”
Then-President Barack Obama established DACA through executive order in 2012. By doing so, opponents have long argued that Obama usurped Congress, which is tasked with overseeing immigration laws.
The program has survived legal challenges, including in the Supreme Court. The latest challenge was filed by a delegation of states led by Texas.
Judge Hanen had previously declared DACA as unconstitutional, prompting President Joe Biden’s administration to revise the policy, but that version was shot down by the judge in his recent ruling.
Nevada Democrats expressed disappointment with the ruling through social media.
“Dreamers, you shouldn’t have to live in fear that one week or the next, a court will decide that you can no longer live in the only country you’ve ever known,” Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto wrote. “America is your home, and I’m going to keep fighting for you.”
Sen. Jacky Rosen said that Dreamers are essential contributors to the country and its economy.
U.S. Rep. Dina Titus wrote: “This is another upsetting attack when they need long-term solutions and a pathway to citizenship.”
Added Rep. Steven Horsford: “While current Dreamers in Nevada & beyond can continue contributing to our communities, it’s outrageous that future young immigrants may not have the same opportunities. They deserve better. We need real reform.”
Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford, who has joined fellow attorneys general in efforts to protect DACA, noted that the program is not approving new applications.
“I am tired and I am sad that this fight is still ongoing, but as long as there are those who seek to attack members of our community and to single them out as non-Americans, I will be there to fight back every step of the way,” he wrote.
The Supreme Court in 2020 ruled that former President Donald Trump’s administration improperly ended the program.
But Judge Hanen expressed sympathy for DACA recipients, but wrote that “…Congress, for any number of reasons, has decided not to pass DACA-like legislation.”
Bipartisan efforts have repeatedly fizzled in the past.
Kagan said he found it “very difficult to see how anything will ever pass through Congress,” particularly through its deadlocked alignment.
Polls show that the majority of Americans broadly support DACA.
Kagan argued that Republicans have taken an “anti-immigrant platform,” and that Democrats also have failed to pass immigration reform even in years when they controlled the White House and both chambers of Congress.
He said that a percentage of Dreamers might have other recourses, but that “we can’t hide the fact that for most, DACA is the only lifeline they have, and it’s in great danger.”