CASA General Counsel Nicholas Katz
In the last two weeks, a flurry of headlines about recent administrative changes to the DACA program circulated the internet but without much context or explanation. We have received so many questions from members and allies about where DACA stands and what exactly has just happened to the program. To help, we sat down with CASA General Counsel Nicholas Katz to learn more:
Last week, people were very excited to see headlines like "Biden Admin moves to formalize DACA and protect from legal challenges," yet we still see news about DACA being in danger right now. Can you explain in layman's terms what the Biden administration actually did?
NK: “The Biden administration went through an administrative process called “rulemaking” to formalize DACA. Although this helps to put DACA on stronger legal footing, it does not change the fact that new DACA applications are still not being accepted due to the ruling by federal District Court Judge Andrew Hanen in Texas v. U.S. last year – and all DACA holders are still at risk. Anyone who has DACA should apply to renew as soon as possible. We recommend submitting your renewal application approximately 5 months (150 days) before your current DACA expires. CASA can help! Call 1-866-765-2272 to get more information about accessing legal services through CASA.”
So it sounds like DACA is still very much in jeopardy in the courts?
NK: “Yes! Right now the DACA case is being appealed in the Fifth Circuit – one of the most conservative appeals courts in the United States. Although Judge Hanen’s ruling temporarily allowed DACA renewals to continue, he ruled that the entire program was illegal and the Fifth Circuit could shut it down completely at any time. At the end of the day, the litigation to save DACA will likely rest with the U.S. Supreme Court – the same court that just overturned Roe. v. Wade and gutted the EPA’s ability to protect our environment.”
We've beaten conservative and xenophobic rulings in the courts before - isn't that where we should be focusing our energy?
NK: “Although we have won important victories in the courts in the past, there is no guarantee that we will win this fight. Judge Hanen is the same judge who killed the expanded DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents) in 2016, which would have benefitted millions more families who are being unjustly denied a path to citizenship by our broken immigration system and the repeated failure of Congress to act. While we must continue the fight to preserve and protect DACA in court, we cannot rely on the judiciary alone to protect the hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients across the country.”
So if the courts or the next President can destroy this program that has changed the lives of millions at any time, what can we do to help?
NK: “As long as DACA remains a program rooted in Executive authority, it will be vulnerable to political attacks. While we must continue fighting in the courts to save DACA, and ensure that everyone who is eligible to renew their DACA status does so, ultimately we need Congress to act. DACA was always supposed to be a temporary solution, and even the rule the administration just put out only protects those who came to the U.S. before June 2007 (consistent with the original DACA guidelines) —leaving out thousands of people who should be eligible for relief. While we fight in the courts to protect DACA, we must also take to the streets to demand that Congress finally act to provide a permanent and comprehensive solution.”
CASA will continue to strategize with our members and the larger movement on our next move when it comes to DACA, but for now, what we know for sure is that we’ve got a huge fight ahead of us yet again. We always will, until we can enshrine permanent protections for DACA-holders and immigrants everywhere. The Biden administration has signaled that they want to make good on their campaign promises to the immigrant community, but we must make sure we hold them to those commitments. We need allies everywhere to stay connected, stay alert, stay in the fight.