8,000 Tennessee DACA recipients in limbo after appeals court rules immigrant program illegal

By: - October 6, 2022 2:25 pm
Protesters in front of U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexanders offices on West End in 2017. (Photo: John Partipilo)

DACA Protesters in front of U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexanders offices on West End in 2018. (Photo: John Partipilo)

On Wednesday, a federal appeals court panel once again left the fate of more than 8,000 Tennessee childhood recipients of a federal program temporarily protecting them from deportation in limbo. 

The three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled the federal program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), illegal while allowing current DACA recipients to renew their status.

As a result, the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition urged DACA recipients whose applications are set to expire within the next year to renew immediately. TIRRC is also offering legal assistance for DACA renewals. 

Since 2017, DACA has faced legal trouble after the Trump administration attempted to terminate the program. In June 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the Trump administration and reinstated the DACA program, but did not rule on whether the program had been legally adopted. 

After the Supreme Court ruling, thousands across the nation rushed to submit DACA applications, many for the first time, but a consequent ruling in 2021 by a Texas federal judge once again ruled the program illegal and left thousands in limbo. 

Wednesday’s decision means first-time DACA applications filed during the brief window of opportunity will not be adjudicated, said TIRRC advocates, and first-time DACA applicants will remain in limbo. 

“DACA recipients are not their immigration status, they are our neighbors, friends, teachers,” said Luis Mata, TIRRC policy coordinator. “These are our community members whose lives are left in limbo.”

Immigrant-rights advocates will wait for a final decision from Texas judges but will continue to advocate that the Biden Administration made DACA a permanent program, finally allowing DACA recipients and applicants stability. 

“We know that when we organize, we win so that’s why we will continue fighting for permanent protections for our community members, so we can create a Tennessee and country where we can all thrive regardless of immigration status,” said Mata.  

DACA renewals can call TIRRC’s legal assistance line at (615) 282-5544.

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Dulce Torres Guzman
Dulce Torres Guzman

Dulce has written for the Nashville Scene and Crucero News. A graduate of Middle Tennessee State University, she received the John Seigenthaler Award for Outstanding Graduate in Print Journalism in 2016. Torres Guzman is a member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. She enjoys the outdoors and is passionate about preserving the environment and environmental issues.