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Latest DACA Ruling Could Open the Door for Thousands of Immigrants in High School

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UPDATED

A federal judge's ruling on the future of DACA could open the door for tens of thousands of undocumented high school-age students to be protected from deportation.

Handed down late Tuesday, the court's ruling is the third that ensures DACA will remain in effect for recipients after a March 5 deadline originally set by the Trump administration.

While the previous two rulings required the federal Department of Homeland Security to accept renewal applications, Tuesday's ruling goes a step further: the government would have to accept new applications, potentially opening the programs to a new wave of young immigrants.

The Washington, D.C.-based Migration Policy Institute estimates that, over the next four years, about 120,000 immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children would turn 15 and become eligible for DACA if they are enrolled in school. Program applicants must have arrived in the United States by June 2007 and be a current student, high school graduate, have a GED, or be an honorably discharged veteran.

Despite the latest ruling, the teenagers who are now eligible remain in limbo. That' because the presiding judge, U.S. District Judge John Bates, imposed a 90-day delay on his ruling to give the Trump administration a chance to re-argue its case.

If enacted, the ruling could provide clarity on what has been a murky, confusing period for immigration reform.

President Donald Trump announced in September that he planned to phase out the program, allowing renewals through March. Trump said he wanted to give Congress time to find a legislative solution to address the status of the young undocumented people who benefit from the program that President Obama established by executive order in 2012.

While Trump publicly called on Congress to pass a bill to protect DACA recipients, he also used their fate as leverage to push priorities such as additional border security and tighter restrictions on family-based immigration.

The latest twist in the DACA saga has been welcome news for scores of students—popularly known as Dreamers—who could become eligible for protection, but also education and advocacy groups. Those organizations are now calling on Congress to find a legislative solution.

"Dreamers should be afforded the opportunity to remain in the place they work and study. Despite the victory, however, our nation can't wait for the judicial system to do what Congress must," Gustavo Torres, the executive director of CASA, a Maryland-based immigration advocacy and assistance organization, said in a statement.

A recently released National Bureau of Economic Research working paper found that the program had a "significant impact" on the education outcomes of undocumented immigrant youth, including a 15 percent increase in high school graduation rates.

Conversely, a national survey from the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that nearly 80 percent of educators report having students who have experienced emotional or behavioral problems because they are concerned about immigration enforcement.

"Like all children, Dreamers should be free to learn, free from fear. They are hard-working, law-abiding young people, many of whom came to this country through no choice of their own," wrote Chiefs for Change, an advocacy group for district and state education chiefs, wrote in a prepared statement.

Related Stories and Video

Trump Says DACA is Dead. Research Shows It Raised Grad Rates for Immigrant Students

DACA Continues for Now, as Does Uncertainty for 'Dreamers'

Trump's Immigration Policies Hurting Academics and School Attendance, Survey Finds

Photo Credit: Demonstrators hold up balloons during an immigration rally in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and Temporary Protected Status (TPS), programs.

--Jose Luis Magana/AP

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