US judge rules against Biden DACA regulation for 'Dreamer' immigrants

By Ted Hesson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -A U.S. judge on Wednesday ruled against a program offering deportation relief and work permits to immigrants brought to the country illegally as children, known as “Dreamers,” even after an attempt by President Joe Biden’s administration to bolster the program’s standing with a new regulation.

The decision by Texas-based U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen deals a fresh setback to the program, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and its 579,000 enrollees and other immigrants who might have hoped to enroll in the future.

Hanen, a Republican-appointed judge, found a regulation issued last year by Biden’s Democratic administration did not remedy legal deficiencies that led him to find DACA unlawful in 2021 and blocked new enrollments to the program, which has been in place for more than a decade.

The ruling, which came in response to a lawsuit brought by Texas and other states, is expected to be appealed.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security can continue to renew the status of those enrolled in the program prior to Hanen’s 2021 ruling, he said. Many DACA recipients speak English and have jobs, homes and families in the United States.

Hanen wrote that the order did not require U.S. immigration authorities “to take any immigration, deportation, or criminal action against any DACA recipient, applicant or any other individual that would otherwise not be taken.”

The White House and the office of Texas Governor Greg Abbott did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Biden, who is seeking re-election in 2024, has made it a priority to defend the DACA program, which was created in 2012 under former President Barack Obama when Biden was vice president. Texas and eight other states with Republican attorneys general argued that the program violates federal regulatory law and saddles them with costs related to education, healthcare and law enforcement.

In October 2022, the conservative-leaning 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Hanen’s ruling against DACA, but sent the case back to him for reconsideration in light of Biden’s regulation formalizing the program.

Former President Donald Trump, a Republican seeking re-election in 2024, sought to end DACA but was rebuffed by the U.S. Supreme Court, which found Trump’s termination did not comply with regulatory laws.

(Reporting by Ted Hesson in Washington; Editing by Leslie Adler, David Gregorio and Daniel Wallis)

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