U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen. Photo: Esmer Olvera

A federal judge in Texas hinted he’s likely going to rule against the legality of the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, but refused to issue an injunction, finding that a group of conservative states waited too long to bring their lawsuit.

In declining to issue a preliminary injunction against DACA, U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen of the Southern District of Texas said he believed the plaintiff states have shown a likelihood to succeed on their claims that DACA violated the Administrative Procedure Act. But he found the states brought the case after the government had granted deferred action to millions of people over several years.

“The plaintiff states have put forth what would otherwise be sufficient proof of irreparable damage and have shown that they have no other viable legal remedy. Nevertheless, the court finds that the plaintiff states cannot prevail on the legal element of irreparable harm due to their delay in pursuing the claims they now bring concerning DACA,” the 117-page opinion read.

A group of seven conservative states, led by Texas, sued to end DACA in May. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton appeared to welcome Friday’s ruling, seizing on the judge’s finding that DACA likely violated the Administrative Procedure Act. DACA was created by executive action in 2012.

“We’re now very confident that DACA will soon meet the same fate as the Obama-era Deferred Action for Parents of Americans program, which the courts blocked after I led another state coalition challenging its constitutionality,” Paxton said in a statement.

Hanen, a George W. Bush appointee, blocked the implementation of the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Parents of Americans program, a sister program to DACA, in 2015. A three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld his ruling, while the Supreme Court deadlocked in the case, leaving the lower court decision in place.

In Friday’s opinion, Hanen criticized DACA, but stopped short of issuing an injunction. In 2015, he wrote, the injunction of DAPA, as well as an expanded version of DACA, “was warranted to stop the implementation.”

“Here, the egg has been scrambled,” Hanen wrote. “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 the country.”

“This court does not like the outcome of this case, but is constrained by its constitutionally limited role to the result that it has reached. Hopefully, the Congress and the president will finally get their job done,” his opinion read.

The judge, who also found that the states have made a “clear showing of irreparable injury,” also entered an order allowing them to file an interlocutory appeal.

Read the ruling:

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