Young immigrants feel sense of uncertainty after federal judge rules DACA unconstitutional

A federal judge in Texas ruled Friday that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA program was created illegally and did not follow proper procedure. U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen's ruling left current DACA recipients status intact for now, but put a stop to approval of any new applications. That means hundred of thousands of young immigrants awaiting DACA approval are on uncertain ground.

The lawsuit was filed by Texas in a coalition with eight other states that argued DACA forced states to bear costs of healthcare, education and social services. Those nine states were Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, South Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia.

"I think more than anything with this, with this new ruling highlights is the need for there to be permanent solutions, not just for DACA recipients and those quote unquote dreamers, but also for TPS holders right also for farmworkers for essential workers," said Juan Prieto of Oakland.

Prieto is one of some 650,000 DACA recipients who received protection since the program was set up in 2012. The DACA program protects undocumented immigrants from deportation and allows them to work if they meet strict criteria. Applicants must be under 30-years-old, have been brought to the U.S. as children, have pursued an education or military service, and have no criminal record.

Prieto's brother and sister are impacted by the Texas ruling.

"My two siblings actually were waiting for their biometric appointments which was supposed to happen in two weeks. A lot of us who have received not DACA know that once you do your biometrics it's only three weeks after that, that you actually receive your work permit," said Prieto.

He says his sister just graduated from UC Riverside and had been hoping to work.

"Her whole life is on pause now," said Prieto, "Her whole trajectory of all the things she's worked for has now been put on halt."

Some immigration advocates are considering an appeal, but that could have risks according to U.C. Hastings Law Professor David Levine.

"The trade-off is whether to try and appeal to hostile waters because the Fifth Circuit has indicated this is not their favorite program before this and then of course you'd have to face the Supreme Court," said Professor Levine.

The federal judge in Texas instead pointed to a legislative fix, Levine noted.

"The better road and what the judge was partially trying to take into account is for perhaps Homeland Security to make some changes, but in particular for Congress to finally do something in this area," said Professor Levine.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a statement calling on Republicans to join Democrats in passing bipartisan immigration reform. The House passed legislation in March to give DACA youth a path to citizenship but it is currently stalled in the Senate.

Jana Katsuyama is a reporter for KTVU. Email Jana at and follow her on Twitter @JanaKTVU or Facebook @NewsJana or