HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- What's next for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program? The answer is unclear.
President Joe Biden announced Friday that the Department of Justice will file an appeal after a Texas federal judge ruled the DACA program illegal and denied to renew new applications.
The 77-page ruling states, those who are currently in the program can maintain their status and apply for renewal.
However, the ruling put the future of the DACA program in jeopardy.
The DACA program started back in 2012 under the Obama Administration and provides limited protections to roughly 650,000 people, including about 30,000 recipients who are health care workers.
FIEL Houston's Executive Director Cesar Espinosa is one of the 62,000 DACA recipients living in the Greater Houston area. He said those currently in the program are also dealing with delays for renewals due to a backlog.
"That's the other issue that we're dealing with. A lot of folks who are even in this program who have renewed five, six months ago are still waiting, and the problem with that is that a lot of these folks are losing jobs, they are losing opportunities for employment and in the middle of a pandemic," Espinosa said. "Once again, we really would like to see a more permanent solution so that Dreamers and their families won't have to live in this constant struggle of back-and-forth."
He said for first-time applicants who were denied, the ruling puts them back at square one. They will have to start the process all over again.
"We're going to advocate for these young people," he said. "And when I talk about young people, I mean these are folks who missed the opportunity to apply because maybe when the program was shutdown before they were not 15 years of age and now there are 17, 18, 19 year old's who are just wanting the opportunity to come out of the shadows, integrate fully into society. And once again, because of a judge's bad ruling the government has said, 'No.'"
Military veteran and LULAC representative, Isidro Garza Jr. said there is still hope.
Garza said Congress must act now, find a permanent solution and pass a comprehensive immigration reform plan in order for the country to move forward.
"How we get our country to read off the same page in today's world is a real challenge, but we never lose hope that there are good people on both sides of the aisle and together we will come up with a solution, the right solution, the godly solution to the problem we have right now," Garza said. "Another beacon of hope is the fact that very soon we will get our own Sheriff Ed Gonzalez to be the head of ICE in Washington D.C., and he has an awful lot to do with the processing. It's under his authority, the actual processing of DACA recipients."
Katrina Eiland, a managing attorney with the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project, said it's important for those who are currently DACA recipients to still apply for their renewal and start the process, pending possibly changes.
"It [DACA program] was never intended to be a permanent solution and, really, that's in congress's hands. To be able to provide this pathway to citizenship for undocumented youth and other folks. To really not have them hanging in the balance and to be in this long term limbo," Eiland said.