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Duke Law, Student Affairs, Define America discuss new ruling that declares DACA illegal

Students who are protected by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals are facing another controversial court decision that struck down DACA, leaving room for uncertainty. 

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit's Oct. 5 decision upheld an earlier decision made by a Texas U.S. District Court Judge, which declared DACA unlawful. However, as of now, the current recipients of the program still have access to DACA’s benefits, which include protection from deportation and a work permit.

Duke Student Affairs, Define America and the Duke Law School Immigrant Rights Clinic hosted a Zoom information session Oct. 19 to answer questions about what’s next for affected students.

The session was led by Kate Evans, director of the Duke Law Immigrant Rights Clinic, and Jenny Kim, clinical fellow of the Immigrant Rights Clinic. They first explained what DACA is, its legislative history and its most recent legislative changes. Kevin D’Arco, director of the Duke International Student Center, moderated the event.

What is DACA?

DACA is a program created by former President Barack Obama in 2012. It shields eligible immigrants without documentation who are brought to the United States as children from deportation. The protection is renewable every two years and allows beneficiaries to gain work permits, health insurance and sometimes state-funded benefits for healthcare and education. However, DACA does not offer a pathway to citizenship.

DACA has been in legislative limbo, with attempts made by Obama to expand it in 2014 and later in 2017 when former President Donald Trump attempted but failed to end the program. Both of these moves ended up in the Supreme Court. The expansion case ended with a tied court, which deferred to a lower court’s ruling saying the program couldn’t be expanded. 

The Trump administration’s attempt to terminate the program was rejected in the Supreme Court in June 2020. From December 2020 to July 2021, the program was able to again accept new applicants, but this didn’t last long.

Where is DACA now?

In 2018, Texas and a group of states sued the United States government, challenging the legality of DACA. The case was heard by Judge Andrew Hanen of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas on July 16, 2021. Hanen sided with Texas and deemed DACA illegal, blocking any new recipients from being approved.

Hanen justified his ruling by saying DACA violated the Administrative Procedure Act because it was created through an executive order and didn’t follow the normal “notice and comment” process.

The injunction is still in place so no new applicants can apply and receive benefits from DACA.

“[The Department of Homeland Security] accepts [your application], they’ll take your money, but they can’t give DACA in return,” Evans said.

However, current individuals covered by DACA or those seeking to renew their benefits are still protected.

The Biden administration issued a memorandum reaffirming the government’s commitment to DACA. On Sept. 28, a new federal program that would codify DACA was proposed. 

Hanen’s original decision was met with many appeals, and the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit pushed the case back to Hanen, asking him to consider Biden’s new rule in his decision.

On Oct. 14, Hanen reaffirmed his decision and allowed the DHS to renew applications but blocked them from granting any new applicants DACA status.

As of June 2022, there are approximately 600,000 active DACA recipients, 23,000 of whom are in North Carolina.

Despite these changes, there are resources for DACA students or DACA prospects at Duke. The Duke Law Immigrant Rights Clinic offers legal support, education and policy advocacy, and the Duke Career Hub offers resources for undocumented students.

Jothi Gupta profile
Jothi Gupta | University News Editor

Jothi Gupta is a Trinity sophomore and a university news editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.


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