Last Wednesday, a New York judge denied a request by over 80,000 first-time applicants for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to order the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to resume the processing of first-time applicants.
Specifically, the immigrants wanted the court to resolve an ambiguity caused by DHS’ misinterpretation of the combined effect of a 2021 Texas court’s order barring new applications and another order issued in 2020 by the New York court that had ordered the government to accept first-time, renewal, and advance parole DACA requests.
Judge Nicholas Garaufis rule that the requested relief exceeded the purpose of his court’s prior injunction and what his court could do in light of the 2021 Texas court order because, as he wrote in his opinion: “ordering the Department of Homeland Security to change its definition has the purpose only of skirting the Texas II stay, not effectuating this court’s command.”
“It brings this court no pleasure to be unable to offer them the certainty they need and the justice they deserve to plan their lives in America. But this court cannot do so acting alone,” Garaufis said after acknowledging the vital importance of the DACA program and its protection of thousands of people who were brought to the United States as children and who know no other country as their home,
Based on the 2020 New York court order, many applicants submitted their applications but were left waiting for a decision after the 2021 Texas order came. The confusion stemmed from the fact that while DHS was allowed to accept applications, it was not allowed to grant them.
Judge Garaufis explained that while the applicants have “no doubt been tangibly harmed” by the Texas order, their changed circumstance was not directly linked to the New York order’s objective, which was not to reimpose or mandate the full reinstatement of DACA itself.
José Alonso Muñoz, deputy communications director for United We Dream, the largest immigrant youth lab network in the country advocating for the rights of people regardless of immigration status, told Latino Rebels that the New York court’s decision leaves thousands of immigrant young people —who are eligible for DACA and paid the $495 application fee— at risk of detention and deportation.
“This decision is proof that temporary protections like DACA, unfortunately, are not enough,” Muñoz said. “It is up to Congress to pass permanent protection for immigrant young people and our families to be able to continue to stay in our homes.”
Muñoz highlighted difficulties faced by pending DACA applicants, such as not being able to get work permits or have access to education or health insurance.
“It really comes down to Congress being bold and proactive and protecting not only young people but all 11 million undocumented people in the country, by passing a path to citizenship instead of having to continue to wait for a court case after court case,” Muñoz said,
He also noted how exhausting it is for DACA applicants to remain in limbo while their ability to work or be protected from detention and deportation is determined.
“There’s definitely a big impact that this has on people but at the same time folks will continue to fight back,” Muñoz said.
Juan de Dios Sánchez Jurado is a summer correspondent for Futuro Media. A writer, lawyer, and journalist from Colombia, he is currently studying at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York. Twitter: @diosexmaquina