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DACA's Fate Still Unsettled As Case Moves Back To Lower Court

People march down the street with yellow drums and a yellow banner; a man in the center wearing a black jacket, beanie and sunglasses holds a drum and drumstick.
Jung Woo Kim, center, participates in the 2019 Home Is Here march for DACA and TPS from New York to Washington, D.C.
(Courtesy NAKASEC)
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A federal appeals court has sent the case that could decide the future of DACA back to a lower court in Texas. Now it's up to a judge there to decide if new rules put in place by the Biden administration — an effort to strengthen the program — are legal.

What this latest action means: First, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals did not rule on the legality of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program itself. That means that for now DACA recipients who are already in the program may renew their status. But — this is important — while the case wends its way through the courts, new applications are not being processed.

About DACA: The Obama administration created DACA in 2012 to allow young immigrants without legal status who came to the U.S. as minors to live and work here legally. Since then, hundreds of thousands of people have taken advantage of the program.

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The backstory on this case: The ruling on Wednesday stems from a challenge to DACA by Texas and other Republican states. Last July, Texas federal judge Andrew Hanen ruled in the states’ favor, saying DACA was unlawful because President Obama failed to follow the federal Administrative Procedure Act — essentially finding they didn't follow the rules on creating new policy. The Biden administration has since finalized a new DACA rule, published in the Federal Register, that codifies the program into federal regulation and aims to strengthen it against legal challenges.

Now, the case goes back to Hanen to decide if the new rule is enough for DACA to remain in place.

Go deeper: Hopes And Fears As DACA Goes Back To Court