Six months. That’s how long the Trump administration gave Congress to find a legislative fix or replacement for the Obama-era program aimed at shielding young undocumented immigrants from deportation when Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a phaseout of the program in September 2017.
But after many attempts and failures in Congress to pass legislation, a court ruling expected any day from a federal district judge in Brownsville, Texas, could throw the continuation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program into chaos, possibly leaving it in effect in some parts of the country and terminated in others, said David Leopold, an immigration attorney in Cleveland and a former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
“It becomes uncharted waters,” he added.
The judge in Brownsville, a conservative George W. Bush appointee named Andrew Hanen, could order the administration to stop accepting DACA renewals, putting him at odds with three other federal judges in California, New York, and Washington, D.C., who have forced the government to continue processing renewal applications.
If Hanen so rules—and he was responsible in 2015 for blocking the implementation of Obama-era protections for undocumented parents—the Trump administration could be in a position of having to decide which order to follow: continue processing renewals, or stop doing it altogether. In such a scenario, the Supreme Court will likely be asked to step in, according to Leopold and other legal experts.