DACA 'Still Alive, but Not Safe' After Court Ruling: Immigration Lawyer

A U.S. appeals court ruled Wednesday that an Obama-era policy protecting young immigrants from deportation was unlawful, posing questions about the future of the nearly 600,000 immigrants enrolled in the program.

A panel from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a lower court's decision that deemed Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) illegal last year after Texas and other states' Republican attorneys general sued to end the program. DACA allows eligible young immigrants who came to the U.S. as children to apply for a work permit and be protected from deportation. Membership in the program is subject to renewal every two years.

Advocates Celebrate 10th Anniversary of DACA
Immigration advocates gather for a rally to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in Battery Park on June 15, 2022, in New York City. A federal appeals court Wednesday upheld a lower court's ruling that the program was illegal. Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

In its decision Wednesday, the appeals court allowed for current DACA enrollees—also known as Dreamers—to maintain their status, but continued to block new applicants from applying. The panel of three judges on the case also wrote in their opinion that they defer the "final rule" of the DACA program back to the lower courts to decide on the program's fate after President Joe Biden issued new regulations for the program in August.

The White House told NBC News last week that Biden was preparing to take action ahead of Wednesday's ruling, such as readying an order that would direct Immigration and Customs Enforcement to deprioritize deporting DACA recipients.

"The legal questions that DACA presents are serious, both to the parties and to the public," the 5th Circuit panel wrote in its opinion. "In our view, the defendants have not shown that there is a likelihood that they will succeed on the merits."

High-profile immigration lawyer Greg Siskind wrote on Twitter that the appeals decision means "DACA is still alive, but not safe."

"Good news," Siskind added. "But not great news."

The court ruled that DACA is allowed to remain in effect until October 31, the day that Biden's new rule for the program is set to begin that will codify the program into law, reported RollCall.

The ruling led to renewed calls for Congress to create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants eligible for DACA, something former President Barack Obama tried to achieve before creating the program in 2012.

On Wednesday, Illinois Congressman Chuy García tweeted that while current DACA recipients can find some "relief" in the newest ruling, "it underscores the urgent need for Senate action" on DACA's legitimacy.

"We must provide long-term stability for DACA recipients and not close the door on the many young people who already call this country home," García wrote.

The Families Belong Together campaign, a part of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, also tweeted about the appeals decision, saying that the uncertainty of the program "adds to the fear DACA recipients face that one day they will be forcibly removed from their families, loved ones, and their lives."

"Our existence is legal," continued the tweet. "Our #HomeIsHere."

Newsweek has reached out to the White House for comment.