McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Dozens of faith organizations and migrant advocacy groups spoke out on Thursday calling on Congress to act after a federal judge in South Texas declared DACA to be illegal.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen, of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, sided with Texas and eight other states that sued the federal government to stop the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program. This was the second time in two years that Hanen has ruled against the controversial program, which protects migrants who are brought illegally as children to the United States from deportation.

There are an estimated 600,000 in the program, who also are called “Dreamers.” Hanen’s ruling stops short of ordering them deported but it prevents any new applicants.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students celebrate June 18, 2020, in front of the Supreme Court after the Supreme Court rejected President Donald Trump’s effort to end legal protections for young immigrants in Washington. (AP File Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas reacted to the ruling by issuing the following statement: “As the secretary of Homeland Security who promulgated a final rule to preserve and fortify DACA last year, and as the former director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) who, in 2012, led the development and implementation of DACA, I am deeply disappointed by the ruling and uniquely qualified to say that DHS believes DACA is lawful and constitutional.”

Mayorkas said the agency will continue to process DACA renewals and stands ready to act with Congress to come up with a solution.

“Current DACA recipients will not lose their protection from removal. But this ruling does undermine the security and stability of more than half a million Dreamers who have contributed to our communities. The United States is the only home they have ever known. Congress has failed to act, and now Dreamers face an uncertain future, waiting to receive the permanent protection they deserve,” Mayorkas said.

A push to get Congress to act was a common theme echoed Thursday by several faith and migrant advocacy organizations upset by the ruling.

“This ruling portends the end of one of America’s most successful and popular immigration policies. Unless Congress steps up and acts, young immigrants who grew up pledging allegiance to the flag and are Americans in all but paperwork will face job loss and deportation,” said Kerri Talbot, executive director of the Immigration Hub. “Either Congress enacts a permanent solution now, or a dark chapter in American history will likely commence. With many DACA recipients living in mixed-status families that include citizens and green card holders, the fate of millions rests in the hands of Congress.”

“Once again, Dreamers are being made political targets by politicians who engage in fear-mongering and scapegoating. When is this travesty of destroying lives for political gain enough? Have they no sense of Christian charity?,” said League of United Latin American Citizens National President Domingo Garcia. “LULAC will support our Dreamers until justice is done.”

“Judge Hanen’s newest ruling threatens a program that has supported the lives of many young people that were brought as undocumented children to this country. Both the Judge and the state of Texas aim to eliminate the program without having a permanent immigration solution available for these individuals. Until Congress acts and gives Dreamers a path to citizenship, it is paramount that DACA continues,” said United Farm Workers Foundation attorney Ambar Tovar.

Jesus Escamilla, a DACA recipient and UFW Foundation member, said the ruling was “upsetting,” adding that “this program not only protects me from deportation, but has allowed me to work so I can support my family.”

Erika Andiola, a DACA recipient and communications director for the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights said: “Since the moment immigrants like me fought and won DACA in 2012, the program has been under attack. Judge Hanen has ruled against DACA before and today’s ruling is unfortunately of little surprise. For years, DACA has been punted back and forth in a legal battle that has always been a reminder that our communities need and deserve more; we deserve to live full, safe lives in the places we call home, with the people we call home. Permanent protections would provide this security.”

As a DACA recipient, it is infuriating to always be told I don’t belong

Yuna Oh, DACA recipient

“In a time of intense polarization, Americans’ overwhelming support for DACA recipients and other Dreamers is a rare chance to advance meaningful bipartisan legislative solutions,” a statement from the 40 coalition members of the Alliance for a New Immigration Consensus said.

“Judge Hanen’s ruling reinforces the inadequacy and injustice of the status quo for Dreamers, which again cries out for a legislative fix. While avoiding the worst case scenario, where DACA was ended immediately for everyone, this is a further wakeup call of the cruel limbo Dreamers and their families have to live through,” Vanessa Cárdenas, executive director of America’s Voice said.

Yuna Oh is a political associate for America’s Voice. She said: “As a DACA recipient, it is infuriating to always be told I don’t belong, as this ruling does. Every day, we have to wait for Congress to act on a permanent solution so we don’t have to live in fear despite being Americans.”

“We’ve said this before, and we’ll repeat it: Relying on the courts to protect DACA is not a viable strategy to protect our communities from deportation. Congress and the Biden administration must create a pathway to citizenship for all undocumented people in the U.S. The time for waiting is over,” said Faisal Al-Juburi, spokesperson for RAICES.

A group of evangelical leaders also sent a letter to members of Congress urging they act.

“These dynamics are not theoretical for American evangelicals, many of whom personally know Dreamers who are members of and leaders within our churches, students on our college and seminary campuses and colleagues in our ministries,” the letter reads.

The Immigrant Legal Resource Center urged DACA participants to seek legal counsel for options beyond this program in light of Wednesday’s ruling.

The ruling is expected to be appealed.

Sandra Sanchez can be reached at