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Federal Judge Rules DACA Program Illegal (Again!): What You Need to Know

Posted by Karol Brown | Sep 26, 2023 | 0 Comments

On September 13, 2023, federal judge Andrew Hanen ruled that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is illegal. This latest decision is the latest in a long and complex legal battle that has lasted over a decade. This article provides some details about Judge Hanen's ruling and what it means for DACA recipients. We also talk about ways that DACA recipients can urge Congress to change the laws that provide security and work authorization to so many people.

Federal Judge, Andrew Hanen, of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas

Legal Background on DACA Challenge

The DACA program was established by President Barack Obama in 2012 by executive action. DACA has been a lifeline for hundreds of thousands of young immigrants in the United States. DACA protects people from deportation and allows recipients the opportunity to work legally in the United States. However, the program has faced numerous legal challenges over the years, mostly by Republicans seeking to overturn this policy. In 2020, the US Supreme Court upheld the DACA program.

Judge Hanen's 2023 ruling is just one chapter in an ongoing legal saga. In 2021, he initially declared DACA unlawful, stating that it was created outside the required agency rulemaking process. The Biden administration responded by introducing the new regulations in August 2022 to strengthen and safeguard the program. The Republican attorneys general of nine states challenged the new rules, saying the Biden administration's proposal violated the Administrative Procedure Act. The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals supported Hanen's decision in 2022 but sent the case back to the district court to consider the proposed changes.

The Latest Ruling on the DACA Program

Judge Hanen's recent decision has created a stir in the immigration community. He ruled that the 2022 DACA rule created by the Biden Administration is illegal. His decision claims that there are no substantial differences between the 2022 rule and the 2012 DACA memorandum. Hanen's verdict is based on the belief that President Obama exceeded his authority when creating the DACA program.

Current DACA Recipients Not Immediately Impacted

The most important thing to know is that this judge's decision does not immediately affect current DACA recipients. If you currently have valid DACA, you can continue to renew your status every two years. You will continue to be protected from deportation and can continue to work legally in the United States. You should file to renew your DACA status as soon as possible, which is six months before your expiration date.

New DACA Applications Prohibited

The judge's ruling still prohibits new DACA applications from being decided by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services. If an applicant meets all of the eligibility requirements, but has not received DACA previously, they will not be able to have their applications for DACA protection adjudicated. Furthermore, DACA applicants who do not renew on time may be prevented from filing a late application under the ruling.

Biden Administration Will Likely Appeal

The Biden administration is anticipated to appeal this latest decision on the DACA program. This legal battle is likely to draw renewed attention to immigration issues during the 2024 presidential election season.

Congress Should Pass Immigration Reform

Congress can resolve this legal issue by passing legislation like the DREAM Act to provide young immigrants with legal status, work authorization, and a path to US citizenship. Unfortunately, given the current political climate in Congress, it is unlikely that Congress will make significant legislative progress on DACA in the near future.

The issue may ultimately return back to the U.S. Supreme Court, which in 2020 declined to end the program but also didn't determine whether the program was legal. In the meantime, we urge DACA recipients, their families, and their employer to reach out to Congress to urge them to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation to protects Dreamers and the immigrant community.


The recent ruling by Judge Hanen has injected fresh uncertainty into the DACA program's future. While current recipients can still renew their status, the bar on new applications prevents younger immigrants from being protected. We recommend that DACA recipients contact an immigration attorney to determine if there is any way to get legal status in the United States if DACA is eliminated.

The legal battle over DACA's fate underscores the importance of comprehensive immigration reform. As the political debate intensifies, supporters of DACA should stay informed and advocate for a more permanent solution for immigrants brought to this country as children.

About the Author

Karol Brown

Managing Attorney


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