A federal judge in Texas has refused to kill the DACA program immediately.
District Judge Andrew Hanen had been expected to end the Delayed Action for Childhood Arrivals program when seven states led by Texas filed suit against DACA on May 1.
That he did not do so Friday gives the almost 700,000 DACA recipients additional time to request renewals, which would keep them in the United States legally for an additional two years.
DACA protects them from deportation and grants them work permits in two-year stints.
President Donald Trump announced a year ago he would end the program and called on Congress to replace it. Congress so far has not been able to agree on a future for DACA.
Judge Hanen said if DACA were causing harm to the states that brought the suit against it, they should have sued six years ago, when President Barack Obama first started it.
“Here, the egg has been scrambled,” he wrote in his ruling. “To try to put it back in the shell with only a preliminary injunction record, and perhaps at great risk to many, does not make sense nor serve the best interests of this country.”
The judge said that after so much time, canceling DACA might cause more harm than the states claim it caused in the first place.
“DACA is a popular program and one that Congress should consider saving," he added.
Hanen joined two other courts that have ruled the program must continue for now and renewals must be permitted.
But unlike the other district court judges, Hanen has a conservative record. In 2015, he ruled a companion program that would have granted temporary legal status to DACA parents — Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) — was illegal, effectively blocking it before it could take effect.
And like DAPA, he indicated that in his opinion, DACA is unconstitutional. He gave the seven states three weeks to appeal his ruling to the also-conservative Fifth District Court of Appeals.
Should the states not appeal or the appeals court refuses to overrule Hanen’s decision, opponents of DACA would have to wait until one of the cases in four courts makes it to the Supreme Court.
The delay is good news for DACA recipients who will have more opportunity to request renewals and keep their benefits longer.