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WASHINGTON – The Biden administration took steps Monday to preserve an Obama-era program that offers protections for young immigrants who were brought to the United States as children.

The Department of Homeland Security announced a notice of proposed rulemaking that would “preserve and fortify” the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also known as DACA. The move comes months after a federal judge in Texas ruled the program illegal and halted its acceptance of new applications for the program.

The federal judge ruled DACA violated the U.S. Constitution because it undermines Congress’ authority on immigration laws. The Biden administration has appealed that ruling.

The proposed rule will recreate the DACA policy as it was announced in the 2012 memorandum issued by then-DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano. It called for DHS to exercise “prosecutorial discretion” for young children who came to the United States illegally, also known as Dreamers.

Monday's DHS notice of the proposed rule noted that “DACA recipients should not be a priority for removal.” The proposed rule will be published Tuesday and is open to a 60-day public comment period. 

DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement Monday that “the Biden-Harris Administration continues to take action to protect Dreamers and recognize their contributions to this country.” 

“This notice of proposed rulemaking is an important step to achieve that goal,” he continued. “However, only Congress can provide permanent protection. I support the inclusion of immigration reform in the reconciliation bill and urge Congress to act swiftly to provide Dreamers the legal status they need and deserve.”

Congress has not been able to pass legislation that would protect DACA recipients and offer a pathway to citizenship.

Earlier this year, the House passed legislation that would create a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients. The legislation, however, was not brought up in the Senate. 

Democrats on Capitol Hill also tried to include a pathway to citizenship for in the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package, but the proposed amendment was shot down by the Senate parliamentarian. 

Contributing: Luz Moreno-Lozano

Reach Rebecca Morin at Twitter @RebeccaMorin_