DACA Ruled Unconstitutional, Leaving 35,000 NY Dreamers In Jeopardy—Immigrant Advocates Demand Permanent Protections

New York, NY—Today, Judge Hanen of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas ruled in Texas vs. United States that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is unconstitutional. Judge Hanen’s decision affirms his previous 2021 ruling that the federal government will not accept or process any new DACA applications. The ruling does not affect current DACA recipients – for now, they will maintain and can renew their DACA status, and will continue to be allowed to live and work in the country. We expect this decision to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which will ultimately decide if DACA is overturned. The New York Immigration Coalition denounces Judge Hanen’s ruling and demands that Congress and President Biden pass permanent protections without delay. 

“Today’s decision from Judge Hanen is unfathomably cruel and a marked failure of our justice system. DACA has been a wildly successful program that has offered more than 835,000 young people, and more than 35,000 New Yorkers, the opportunities to gain an education and secure jobs. Despite broad public support, DACA continues to be the target of right-wing extremist attacks and part of a virulent anti-immigrant agenda. With this court decision declaring the policy unconstitutional, hundreds of thousands of American lives are once again thrown in disarray for no justifiable reason. As our courts continue to be hostile to DACA recipients, young people – American in every way but legal status – can’t settle for temporary relief any longer.  It’s time for Congress and President Biden to stop deflecting responsibility for meaningful immigration reform, and honor campaign promises by passing permanent protections to ensure the stability of our economy and communities without delay,” said Murad Awawdeh, Executive Director, New York Immigration Coalition.

“For every DACA recipient, the program provided a path forward but today’s decision marks a return to fear, instability, and an uncertain future in the only country we have ever known as home. Having worked tirelessly as a nurse throughout the pandemic to safeguard and tend to the lives of New Yorkers, it is devastating to me that I can remain American in every way but legal status. But I have not given up on my country. I will continue to fight for a pathway to citizenship for myself, all other DACA holders, and family members, like mine. My parents have lived and worked here for over twenty years —paying taxes and raising my sister and I, yet they have never had an opportunity to become legalized. Now is the moment that Congress must act. We can’t wait any longer!” said DACA recipient Hina Naveed.

“Today’s court decision is a devastating blow to my husband and I, and the lives we built for our two young children. For my husband and I, and others like us, DACA served as a lifeline, allowing us to establish our lives in this country. It enabled my husband to operate his own small business and provided me the opportunity to work in the nonprofit sector, helping my community. While I knew DACA was a temporary solution, I envisioned our country reaching a turning point in our immigration system, recognizing us as the Americans we feel we are by granting citizenship to every DACA recipient and undocumented individual. We deserve stability and the freedom to live without fear in the only country many of us have ever really known as home. Today, thousands of parents, including myself, will hold our children tighter as we confront the horrifying reality of the court decision together and fight for the change that all of us need. Home is here!” said DACA recipient Monica Rodriguez-Aguilera. 

“On behalf of the thousands of recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, their families, and their communities, NYLAG strongly opposes Judge Hanen’s ruling ending the program for new and pending DACA applicants,” said Jodi Ziesemer, Director of the Immigrant Protection Unit, New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG). “This decision throws the lives of 580,000 DACA recipients into jeopardy—our neighbors, friends, family members, and colleagues—people who have lawfully lived, worked in, and uplifted our communities and our country for decades. While the United States Congress has failed to enact any meaningful legislative reform of our broken immigration laws, it is unconscionable that our judicial system is placing thousands of people back into the shadows of this dysfunctional, harmful immigration system, and denying thousands more the ability to even apply for DACA at all. This ruling is inhumane and shameful, and DACA recipients and hopefuls deserve better.” 



In October 2022, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals punted State of Texas v. USA back down to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas after the Biden administration issued an updated rule on DACA in August 2022. Judge Hanen previously ruled that DACA was illegally implemented in July 2021. 

Created in 2012 under President Obama, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) has been the subject of litigation since the Trump administration announced it was ending the program on September 5, 2017. Several lawsuits were filed against the administration for terminating DACA unlawfully. As a result, three nationwide injunctions issued by U.S. district courts — in California, New York, and the District of Columbia — have allowed people who have previously had DACA to renew their deferred action.

The New York metropolitan area is home to 35,000 DACA recipients. Of these, 79% are currently in the labor force, 97% have a high school diploma, 50% have some college education, 28% are married, and 27% have children. There are more than 36,000 U.S. citizens in NYC living with DACA recipients.