Who is Andrew Hanen? Texas judge closes DACA to applicants, over 50,000 stranded

A federal judge in Texas closed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to new applicants but left the door open for current recipients


                            Who is Andrew Hanen? Texas judge closes DACA to applicants, over 50,000 stranded
Judge Andrew Hanen (Twitter) and protesters against the efforts to repeal DACA in Washington DC (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

US District Judge Andrew Hanen has sided with nine GOP-controlled states and ordered that the immigration pathway for migrant children dubbed DACA was illegal. The judge, on July 16, ruled that the program could no longer receive any new applications, but those currently covered under DACA would continue to receive protection. The move, while celebrated by conservatives, was slammed by Democrats on social media.

The rule, introduced by former president Barack Obama was routinely involved in legal battles during the Trump era. In June 2020, the Supreme Court stepped in and weighed that DACA was legal and rejected Trump's bid to end the program. Naturally, the decision infuriated Trump, who then claimed the court "didn't like me". On assuming the presidency, Joe Biden promised to strengthen DACA, as well as provide a legal pathway to permanent citizenship

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Those plans have now hit a solid brick wall, thanks to Judge Hanen. The ruling could impact over 50,000 applicants, whose applications are yet to be approved. While the judge ruled that current recipients won't be impacted, many have raised eyebrows at that claim. 

Supporters rally in support of DACA recipients on the day the Supreme Court hears arguments in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) case on November 12, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

 

Who is Judge Andrew Hanen?

The 68-year-old currently serves on the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas. Born in Elgin, Illinois, Hanen was raised in Waco, Texas. In 1975, he obtained a BA at Denison University in Ohio. Hanen then decided to pursue law and went to Baylor University School of Law in his hometown of Waco. He graduated from Baylor in 1978 with a JD, and then served as a briefing attorney at the Supreme Court of Texas.  

A year later, Hanen left the court to set up a private practice in Houston. He remained in private practice till 2002, when then-president George W Bush nominated him to serve on the District Court. His nomination was unanimously supported by the Senate and he began serving in May 2002. Interestingly, Hanen was nominated to the court back in 1992 by George HW Bush, but it lapsed since no Senate vote was ever held.

Up to 2018, Hanen sat at the court in Brownsville, Texas, before moving to Houston. Since his appointment, Hanen's tenure has been controversial, leading Slate to call him "one of the most notoriously partisan conservatives in the federal judiciary," in a 2020 article. During the Presidential Election in 2020, he controversially advised Texans not to vote drive-thru to ensure that their votes will be "valid". He did, however, slam opposition to the idea and refused to throw out 127,000 ballots cast via drive-thru. 

Hanen blocks DACA, GOP celebrates 

Even before 2020, Hanen has a long history of controversy. The Los Angeles Times noted he was an outspoken critic of Democrats' immigration policies and extended that criticism to his latest rulings. While he wrote, "the court takes no position on immigration reform", his ruling was filled with criticisms of policies. He has called the federal government's deportation policy as "misguided", and claimed it "endangers America". 

Hanen ruled that the Department of Homeland Security violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) in creating the policy. He also said the policy was implemented unlawfully and told the Department of Homeland Security to stop accepting applications. "DACA would grant lawful presence and work authorization to over a million people for whom Congress had made no provision and has consistently refused to make such a provision," Hanen wrote.

The ruling was made after a suit was brought to the court by a coalition of GOP-controlled states led by Texas. It was widely celebrated by conservatives. Texas AG Ken Paxton tweeted, "Attorney General Ken Paxton, defeats Biden Administration - AGAIN - on illegal immigration."



 

 

Dems slam 'terrible' decision

As soon as news of the decision made its way on social media, leading Democrats slammed Judge Hanen for his ruling. Sen Elizabeth Warren tweeted, "The lives of Dreamers cannot continue to be a political football for right-wing attacks. With DACA under constant assault, the Senate must keep its promise and pass a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers & others too. No more excuses, no more delays." Rep Joaquin Castro said, "Terrible decision on DACA by a federal judge in Texas. The dreams of hundreds of thousands of young people who are contributing to the American economy will be put on hold for no good reason. Congress must pass a pathway to citizenship this year. We can’t wait."



 



 

 

Congressman Chuy García said, "It’s beyond infuriating that the future of DACA recipients is always tied to the next court ruling. People currently under the program and those who qualify for it need a permanent solution NOW. Congress and @POTUS need to provide a pathway to citizenship. It can’t wait." Sen Mark Kelly tweeted, "Today's court ruling to block new applicants to the DACA program is disappointing and cruel. Dreamers are just as American as my own two daughters, and they deserve the certainty of a clear pathway to citizenship."



 



 

 

The existing 600,000 DACA recipients are not expected to face any challenges due to the ruling, but there's no confirmation of that. Supporters of DACA are expected to appeal the ruling, but as NPR noted it means that the fate of DREAMers (recipients of DACA) is now in the hands of the Supreme Court, or Congress. The Supreme Court could rule once again in favor of DACA, but that still leaves it open to other legal challenges.

Alternatively, Congress could pass a bill that would enshrine DACA in law, but with a split Senate, it seems impossible. In June, like in 2019, the House passed the American Dream and Promise Act. Despite now having the support of the president, the act is expected to die in the Senate as the Democrats lack a majority. As it becomes a political football, thousands of immigrant children are now left wondering what will become of their future. 

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