A federal judge has ruled President Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program illegal and ordered the program reinstated. He also ruled the administration must continue to accept new applicants, taking the defense of the program a step further than previous judges who had ruled in favor of the program.
Judge John D. Bates of Federal District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the administration’s decision to end the DACA program was “arbitrary and capricious” and that the Department of Homeland Security failed to adequately explain its reasoning for ending it. DHS, the federal agency that oversees the program, called the program illegal, claiming that only Congress had the right to defer deportation for illegal immigrants.
“Neither the meager legal reasoning nor the assessment of litigation risk provided by DHS to support its rescission decision is sufficient to sustain termination of the DACA program,” Bates wrote in his decision. “Thus, plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment will be granted in part, and the decision to rescind DACA will be vacated and remanded to DHS.”
“DHS must accept and process new as well as renewal DACA applications,” he added.
Two previous federal judges had ruled against the Trump administration and ordered it to continue to accept renewal applications from DACA recipients. Bates, a George W. Bush nominee, is the only judge to rule DHS has to continue to accept new applicants as well.
DACA was created in 2012 by then-President Barack Obama as a way to protect undocumented immigrants who were brought to this country illegally, but as young children and through no fault of their own. In order to receive protection under the DACA program, individuals must satisfy a number of legal, work and education requirements. They also must reapply every two years, demonstrating that the program’s requirements continue to be met.
Obama created the program through an executive order – there is no law that codifies the program. The Trump administration’s position has long been that any program created by executive order can be rescinded by one as well. President Trump ended the program in September but gave Congress six months to come up with a permanent solution.
Repeated attempts by the White House to work with lawmakers on Capitol Hill for a permanent solution have fallen short. Most recently a group of Republican lawmakers had proposed granting not just legal status but a pathway to citizenship for some 1.8 million individuals, a group more than twice as large as the roughly 700,000 current DACA recipients.
Democrats rejected the offer because the President demanded $25 billion in funding for a wall along the southern border with Mexico in exchange for the DACA solution.
The Department of Justice defended its actions and said it would continue to support DHS’s decision to end the program. The Department of Homeland Security “acted within its lawful authority in deciding to wind down DACA in an orderly manner,” it said in a statement. “Promoting and enforcing the rule of law is vital to protecting a nation, its borders, and its citizens.”
We look “forward to vindicating its position in further litigation,” it added.
Judge Bates stayed his own order for ninety days, giving DHS an opportunity to better explain its rescission decision.
Photo by Pax Ahimsa Gethen via Wikimedia Commons