Federal Appeals Court Rules Obama-Era DACA Program is Illegal


OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.

Prior to his 2012 reelection, Barack Obama repeatedly said that as president, he did not have the authority to simply legalize millions of people in the country illegally. But he went ahead and essentially did just that, issuing an executive order that provided an amnesty to hundreds of thousands of residents brought unlawfully into the country by parents.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit agreed with the former president that he indeed did not have the constitutional authority to create the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The three-judge panel agreed with a lower federal court that came to the same conclusion in July 2021.

That said, the appeals panel did rule that the program could remain in force for the roughly 600,000 so-called “Dreamers” who have already obtained the status. But the decision also states that the Biden administration cannot extend the status to anyone else.

“We also recognize that DACA has had profound significance to recipients and many others in the ten years since its adoption. Given the ‘uncertainty of final disposition’ and the ‘inevitable disruption that would arise from a lack of continuity and stability,’ we preserve the stay as to existing recipients,” said the ruling, according to CNN. Following the decision, Rep. Chuy Garcia (D-Ill.) called on Congress to pass legislation codifying DACA into federal law.


“While this decision brings relief to current DACA recipients, it underscores the urgent need for Senate action on The Dream and Promise Act. 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,” Garcia wrote in a tweet.

In August, the Biden administration attempted to solidify the DACA program by opening it up for public comment, something Obama did not do when he imposed it via executive order in 2012 shortly before his reelection. The federal judge in Texas who struck down the program criticized Obama at the time for not opening up a commentary period.

President Biden criticized the appeals court for determining that the program is “unlawful” and urged Congress to take up the issue and pass legislation that would make the program permanent. In doing so, he returned to a now-familiar refrain of blasting “MAGA Republicans” for opposing the program for being unconstitutional.

“I am disappointed in today’s Fifth Circuit decision holding that DACA is unlawful. The court’s stay provides a temporary reprieve for DACA recipients but one thing remains clear: the lives of Dreamers remain in limbo,” Biden said, according to Fox News.

“Today’s decision is the result of continued efforts by Republican state officials to strip DACA recipients of the protections and work authorization that many have now held for over a decade,” the president added.


“And while we will use the tools we have to allow Dreamers to live and work in the only country they know as home, it is long past time for Congress to pass permanent protections for Dreamers, including a pathway to citizenship,” Biden added. It’s not clear that there is enough support in Congress to pass such legislation, however, and the makeup of the congressional majority will likely shift after the midterms next month.

The appeals court also sent the case back to the federal judge in Texas to review the program. “A district court is in the best position to review the administrative record in the rulemaking proceeding and determine whether our holdings as to the 2012 DACA Memorandum fully resolve issues concerning the Final Rule,” the court wrote.

Fox News added:

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Biden specifically blamed “MAGA-Republican officials” for the court’s decision as several Republican-led states sued the federal government over the DACA program. Governors allege the program negatively impacts their local economies as they have to foot the bill for DACA recipients’ education and healthcare.

“My Administration is committed to defending Dreamers against attacks from Republican officials in Texas and other states,” Biden noted in conclusion. “This challenge to DACA is just another example of the extreme agenda being pushed by MAGA-Republican officials.”