Sun | Sep 19, 2021

US court ruling leaves immigrants who newly applied for DACA in limbo

Published:Saturday | July 24, 2021 | 4:20 PM
Samuel Alfaro pauses between responses during an interview at his home in Houston, Texas, Friday, July 23, 2021. Alfaro said his appointment to help obtain deferred action for childhood arrival or DACA immigration status was cancelled due to a recent federal court ruling against the programme. (AP Photo/John L. Mone)

NEW YORK (AP) — When the text message popped up on his phone, Samuel Alfaro didn't want to believe it.

It said his appointment with US immigration services about his application to join the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme, the one he had been waiting on for months, was cancelled because of a court order halting the Obama-era deportation protections for those brought to the US as children.

“I thought it was a scam,” the 19-year-old from Houston said of the message he received Sunday night, hours before his appointment.

Alfaro went to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services website and “kept checking it, refreshing it every few hours.”

Later, he got an email, confirming it was true.

Now, he simply feels “a little sad.”

Alfaro isn't the only one.

Tens of thousands of young immigrants in the country without legal status are in the same position following a July 16 ruling from a federal judge in Texas that declared DACA illegal while leaving the programme intact for existing recipients.

The ruling bars the government from approving any new applications, like that of Alfaro, whose parents brought him to the US from Mexico when he was two, along with his older brother.

Immigrants and advocates have said they will appeal.

In a statement, Citizenship and Immigration Services said it “will comply with the court order, continue to implement the components of DACA that remain in place.”

It's the latest twist for the programme, which has been struck down and revived in a constant stream of court challenges since then-President Barack Obama created it by executive order in 2012.

Former President Donald Trump announced early on that he was ending the programme, but a US Supreme Court decision last year determined that he had not done it properly, bringing it back to life and allowing for new applications like the one from Alfaro, who filed at the beginning of the year.

The latest ruling calling DACA illegal involved a lawsuit that had been filed by Texas and eight other states.

They said Obama didn't have the authority to create the programme and that it was an action under the power of Congress.

US District Judge Andrew Hanen in Houston agreed, saying in his ruling that “Congress's clear articulation of laws for removal, lawful presence and work authorisation illustrates a manifest intent to reserve for itself the authority to determine the framework of the nation's immigration system.”

Immigration attorneys say the court decision has renewed fears about the future of the programme and once again puts young immigrants in a precarious position.

Attorney Max Meyers with the Mississippi Center for Justice was gearing up to submit DACA paperwork on behalf of 40 young immigrants last week, most of them first-time applicants.

But he had to scrap those plans.

Advocates were informed that as of last week, Citizenship and Immigration Services had 90,000 new DACA applications pending, according to Astrid Silva, executive director of Dream Big Nevada.

She said the agency received 50,000 applications in the first three months of the year but made decisions on fewer than 1,000.

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