Federal Judge Says DACA Must be Reinstated


A federal judge has ruled the reasons the Trump administration has given for ending the immigration program known as DACA are inadequate, and ordered the program reinstated.

In his opinion, U.S. District Court Judge John D. Bates wrote the federal government had failed to “elaborate meaningfully on the…primary rationale for its decision” to end DACA. Namely, “that the policy was unlawful and unconstitutional.”

Bates struck the decision to end the program down in April but gave the Department of Homeland Security, the federal agency responsible for overseeing DACA, ninety days to adequately answer the Court’s concerns.

In the interim DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen did issue an additional memo on the DACA program rescission that articulated additional policy grounds, but of most them “simply repackage legal arguments previously made, and hence are ‘insufficiently independent from the agency’s evaluation of DACA’s legality’ to preclude judicial review or to support the agency’s decision,” Bates wrote, citing a previous decision on DACA.

Judge Bates acknowledged the tough situation the government was in: it could not rely on past arguments to get a ruling in its favor but also could not propose new ones that were inconsistent with the original ones. “The government’s attempt to thread this needle fails,” Bates wrote.

Importantly, Bates points out that he was not challenging DHS’ authority to end the program. He was only ruling that it hadn’t explained why it was necessary to do so. “The Court…does not hold today, that DHS lacks the statutory or constitutional authority to rescind the DACA program. Rather, the Court simply holds that if DHS wishes to rescind the program—or to take any other action, for that matter—it must give a rational explanation for its decision,” Bates wrote.

“A conclusory assertion that a prior policy is illegal, accompanied by a hodgepodge of illogical or post hoc policy assertions, simply will not do.”

DACA grants deferment from deportation for undocumented immigrants who were brought to this country illegally at a very young age. There are an estimated 800,000 DACA recipients.

President Trump has expressed a desire to find a permanent solution for DACA recipients, and earlier this year Republican lawmakers unveiled a plan that would provide citizenship for up to 1.8 million undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as minors – three times the number immigration advocates were calling for.

Democrats in Congress rejected the plan however because in return Republicans demanded $25 billion for border security, including funding for a border wall.

Photo by Molly Adams via Flickr

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