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Texas judge thinks DACA is likely illegal -- here's why he's not shutting it down right away

District Judge Andrew Hanen believes DACA is likely illegal, but has not yet ruled to shut the program down. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

A federal judge surprisingly decided not to issue a ruling to shut down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, even though he believes the program is probably illegal, according to CNN.

District Judge Andrew Hanen, based in Texas, decided that the harm that would come by abruptly ending the program now is greater than the harm caused to states by continuing the program for now.

A group of conservative states, led by Texas, has sued the Trump administration to end the program. The administration has refused to defend the program, which Trump tried to end a year ago, and hoped Hanen would shut it down.

"Here, the egg has been scrambled," Hanen wrote in his decision. "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."

What does that mean?

Basically, Hanen's ruling means that it's one thing to stop a program like DACA before it begins, but once it has been going for a number of years, it becomes a different issue to halt it.

The fact that the states suing to end the program waited so long to challenge it is a key factor. The states are claiming DACA is causing irreparable harm, but Hanen's logic is that a couple more months won't do much more damage after it's already been going for six years.

"The states could have brought a lawsuit against the entire program in 2012 or anytime thereafter," Hanen wrote.

What happens now?

The issue of DACA's legality is likely heading to the Supreme Court for a final ruling, eventually, and Hanen's decision doesn't mean he thinks the program was created legally. He believes it's Congress's job to create a program protecting Dreamers, if they choose to.

"DACA is a popular program and one that Congress should consider saving," Hanen wrote, but also said "this court will not succumb to the temptation to set aside legal principles and to substitute its judgment in lieu of legislative action. If the nation truly wants to have a DACA program, it is up to Congress to say so."

One last thing…
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