Ana Milena Male
Los Angeles, United States, Sept 14 (EFE).- Calls for Congress to approve a path to citizenship for the more than half-million people covered by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) multiplied Thursday after a federal judge ruled the immigration benefit illegal.
From coast to coast, immigrant advocates and beneficiaries spoke out following Judge Andrew Hanen’s decision on Wednesday to rule for the second time in favor of a lawsuit seeking to end the program.
Hanen determined that the administration of Barack Obama (2009-2017) broke the law when it created DACA in 2012.
The judge had already sided with the Texas-led plaintiffs in June 2021, but was forced to issue a new ruling in light of an August 2022 executive order issued by the Joe Biden administration.
Hanen ruled Wednesday that the appeal still violates the law, sparking a new wave of backlash from immigrant advocates.
In Washington, DC, members of several organizations, led by United We Dream, marched in front of Congress on Thursday.
“We need something permanent. DACA has always been temporary. We cannot continue to leave this in the hands of judges,” said Jennifer Romero Espinosa of the organization CASA at a press conference at the end of the march.
In Texas, Karina Hernández of La Unión del Pueblo Entero (LUPE) echoed the call, saying it was time for Congress to act.
She also called on the White House to fulfill its promises to help Dreamers, DACA recipients who came to the country illegally as children and are protected from deportation under the program.
“We want a solution, not more empty promises,” she said. “We cannot continue to live on hope,” she said in a statement.
In his ruling Wednesday, Hanen himself wrote that the solution for the Dreamers, “lies with the legislative branch, not the executive or judicial branches.”
Lawmakers like Rep. Sylvia García, a Democrat who introduced the bipartisan American Dream and Promise Act in June, which would grant permanent residency to some 580,000 current DACA recipients, is aware of this.
García, who represents Texas in the House, and Democratic Congresswoman Delia Ramírez spoke with immigrants and activists today to hear their concerns and urged them to keep faith.
“We will continue to fight,” she said, adding that she already has the support of 200 lawmakers to pass her bill in the Republican-dominated House.
Ramírez, who represents Illinois and is married to a DACA-covered immigrant, warned that the future of Dreamers cannot be left in the hands of the judiciary, pointing her finger at the conservative Supreme Court.
But the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), which took on the defense of DACA in the trial, has said it will appeal Hanen’s ruling.
“From the beginning, it was clear that the higher courts, including the Supreme Court, would have to rule on the legality of the program,” said Thomas A. Sáenz, president of MALDEF, in a written statement to EFE.
DACA already passed a test in 2020, when the Supreme Court ruled against then-President Donald Trump’s order to end the program, however, the change in the composition of the Supreme Court worries activists.
Nevertheless, advocates and Dreamers agreed that they will not give up defending the program.
Arelí Hernández, a DACA beneficiary and member of the Coalition for the Human Rights of Immigrants (CHIRLA), emphasized that the dreamers’ struggle is not new.
“Like me, more than half a million DACA holders have developed deep roots in this country. We will not be uprooted by political whims,” she assured.
The organizations also called on Dreamers to renew their protections, as Hanen’s ruling did not end the program and beneficiaries are still protected from deportation while litigation continues.EFE