NEW YORK — When the text message popped up on his phone, Samuel Alfaro didn’t want to believe it.
It said his appointment with U.S. immigration services about his application to join the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, the one he had been waiting on for months, was canceled because of a court order halting the Obama-era deportation protections for those brought to the U.S. as children.
“I thought it was a scam,” the 19-year-old from Houston said of the message he received Sunday night, hours before his appointment.
Alfaro went to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website and “kept checking it, refreshing it every few hours.” Later, he got an email, confirming it was true.
Now, he simply feels “a little sad.”
Alfaro isn’t the only one. Tens of thousands of young immigrants in the country without legal status are in the same position following a July 16 ruling from a federal judge in Texas that declared DACA illegal while leaving the program intact for existing recipients.
The ruling bars the government from approving any new applications, like that of Alfaro, whose parents brought him to the U.S. from Mexico when he was 2, along with his older brother. Immigrants and advocates have said they will appeal.
In a statement, Citizenship and Immigration Services said it “will comply with the court order, continue to implement the components of DACA that remain in place.”
It’s the latest twist for the program, which has been struck down and revived in a constant stream of court challenges since then-President Barack Obama created it by executive order in 2012.
Former President Donald Trump announced early on that he was ending the program, but a U.S. Supreme Court decision last year determined that he had not done it properly, bringing it back to life and allowing for new applications like the one from Alfaro, who filed at the beginning of the year.
The latest ruling calling DACA illegal involved a lawsuit that had been filed by Texas and eight other states. They said Obama didn’t have the authority to create the program and that it was an action under the power of Congress.
U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen in Houston agreed, saying in his ruling that “Congress’s clear articulation of laws for removal, lawful presence and work authorization illustrates a manifest intent to reserve for itself the authority to determine the framework of the nation’s immigration system.”
Immigration attorneys say the court decision has renewed fears about the future of the program and once again puts young immigrants in a precarious position.
Attorney Max Meyers with the Mississippi Center for Justice was gearing up to submit DACA paperwork on behalf of 40 young immigrants last week, most of them first-time applicants. But he had to scrap those plans.
“It really just throws everybody back into uncertainty,” he said. “Rather than people treat people as humans with foundational needs to go to school and be able to get a job, a judge decided that politics is more important in striking this down.”