San Francisco: On Wednesday, Oct. 5, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is not legal. The lawsuit was brought by Texas and other Republican-led states, and the case will be returned to the lower courts to determine the legality of the new DACA regulations recently issued by the Biden Administration.
The court ruling permits those with DACA to continue to renew, but first-time applications will be held and not adjudicated. The over 600,000 current DACA recipients will continue to live in uncertainty as the litigation drags on. This decision follows a move by the Biden administration to protect the DACA program from legal challenges by using the official rulemaking process to codify the program as a federal regulation. It is set to go into effect on October 31, 2022.
“DACA is a 10-year, long standing program that has allowed undocumented youth to live in our communities, receive education and training, and contribute their knowledge and skills. Over 300,000 DACA recipients work in essential industries, including as educators, healthcare workers, and food supply chain workers. DACA recipients enrich and strengthen the U.S., and should continue to be allowed to live in the U.S. without fear of deportation,” said CAA’s Jose Ng, Immigrant Rights Program Manager.
CAA has and will continue to defend the DACA program. About 19,000 current DACA recipients come from Asia, and an estimated 120,000 Asian youth are DACA eligible. The decision to halt first-time applications disproportionately impacts Asian immigrant communities, where uptake of the DACA program has been slow due to cultural stigma, limited outreach, and language barriers. CAA is a member of the National AAPI DACA Collaborative, which aims to increase culturally competent and in-language community education about the DACA program.
“As an immigrant rights organization, CAA strongly opposes the court ruling,” said CAA’s Olivia Zheng, Immigrant Rights Coordinator . “Continuous challenges to the DACA program have upended young people’s lives. For the past ten years, DACA recipients have had to live in two-year intervals and question their future in this country. DACA has been crucial to the stability of immigrant families and communities, but we need a permanent solution.”
The court ruling underscores the urgency for Congress to pass comprehensive federal immigration reform, including a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. A majority of Americans across political spectrums support a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. The United States has not passed comprehensive immigration reform legislation since 1986, and has instead relied on an insufficient patchwork of laws that has led to the broken immigration system of today. Immigration reform is crucial to protect the ability for DACA recipients, as well as thousands of other undocumented immigrant youth who are not included under the DACA program, to live, study, and work in the United States.
Community members with questions about the impact of the recent ruling on their immigration status should consult with an immigration attorney on their individual cases. CAA is authorized by the Department of Justice to provide immigration services, which include consultations, application assistance, and referrals to free or low-cost attorneys. Interested individuals can contact CAA’s Immigrant Rights team at 415-761-3222.
Chinese for Affirmative Action (CAA) is a community-based civil rights organization in San Francisco. Our mission is to protect the civil and political rights of Chinese Americans and to advance multiracial democracy in the United States. We advocate for systemic change that protects immigrant rights, promotes language diversity, and remedies racial injustice.