In a disheartening decision, a federal court in New York has denied relief to the at least 80,000 first-time Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) applicants who have been left in limbo for more than a year now.
Undocumented young people and their advocates had been in court last month to urge the judge revive tens of thousands of pending first-time applications that have been frozen since a Texas judge ruled against the program last summer as part of an entirely different case against DACA. While former and current program beneficiaries can continue to renew their work permits and deportation protections, no new applications can now be considered.
Litigants had hoped the New York court would allow their applications, which had been pending when the Texas decision went out, to continue on. But that request was denied last week.
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“The result is deeply disappointing not only to our class members, but also to their loved ones and the communities they belong to,” the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic at Yale Law School tweeted following the decision. The law clinic is representing first-time applicants alongside National Immigration Law Center and Make the Road New York.
Adding insult to injury was that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the federal agency that adjudicates DACA paperwork, kept first-time applicants’ fees—$495—after the Texas ruling froze the pending applications. “This is beyond cruel,” DACA recipient Reyna Montoya tweeted at the time. “I personally know many young people who saved up their money to apply for #DACA with the hope of a resolution.”
Litigants in the New York lawsuit, Batalla Vidal v. Wolf, had been ecstatic after Judge Nicholas Garaufis ruled in late 2020 that unlawfully appointed Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf lacked legal authority to make any changes to DACA. This order eventually led to that administration opening the program up to new applicants for the first time since 2017. But then the at least 80,000 first-time applicants were left in limbo when the Texas ruling came in July 2021. That case, led by corrupt Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, had been ongoing separately for several years.
Confusing, yes—and just imagine how it feels for those applicants, the current beneficiaries, and the hopefuls shut out of the program entirely. And even if the program were accepting first-time applications today, many undocumented youth would still be shut out because of current guidelines. “For the first time, a majority of the undocumented immigrants graduating from high schools across the United States have none of the protections offered over the past 10 years under” DACA, The New York Times reported in June, saying that this number could grow by 100,000 annually.
”These applications aren’t just pieces of paper, they are Jhesua who wants to be a firefighter, Miguel who is training to be a world class boxer who can’t travel, the girl in FL who wants to be a biomedical chemist,” tweeted Dream Big Nevada Executive Director Astrid Silva, herself a DACA recipient. Organizations in their statements said the New York ruling “underscores the urgent need for Congress to act and provide permanent relief to immigrant youth.”
When it comes to the Texas litigation, oral arguments were heard before ultra-conservative Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last month. The sad reality is undocumented young people are likely to lose there too. “Growing up in AZ has taught me that we can hold pain & hope,” Montoya also tweeted. She was among the many undocumented young people who traveled to Louisiana for the arguments. “As we prepare to hear the arguments coming from the #DACA case know your matter, you’re worthy & you’re not alone.”
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