Judge Orders DACA Be Restored

August 6, 2018

A federal district court judge in Washington ordered the full restoration of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, but delayed the decision for 20 days to give the Trump administration a chance to appeal.

Two other federal judges have issued preliminary injunctions that have required the government to continue processing applications for DACA renewals, but Judge John D. Bates’s ruling, if allowed to go into effect, means that the administration would have to begin processing new DACA applications. DACA provides temporary protection against deportation and renewable work permits to hundreds of thousands of young immigrants known as "Dreamers" who came to the U.S. without documentation as children.

The Trump administration announced its intention to gradually end DACA in September, describing the program, which was established by President Obama in 2012, as an "unlawful and unconstitutional" attempt by the former president to make "an end-run around Congress" and unilaterally create new immigration rules. Supporters of the program -- including many law professors -- have argued that the establishment of DACA was clearly within Obama’s executive authority and represented a "lawful exercise of prosecutorial discretion."

Judge Bates issued an order in April setting aside the Sept. 5 policy memo ending DACA, finding that the government failed to adequately explain its judgment that the program was illegal. Judge Bates delayed the effectual date for the order for 90 days to give the Trump administration "an opportunity to better explain its view that DACA is unlawful."

Now that the 90-day period has passed, Judge Bates found that the administration failed to elaborate meaningfully on its rationale.

"The court did not hold in its prior opinion, and it does not hold today, that DHS lacks the statutory or constitutional authority to rescind the DACA program," Judge Bates, a George W. Bush appointee, wrote in an opinion issued Friday. "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.  …A conclusory assertion that a prior policy is illegal, accompanied by a hodgepodge of illogical or post hoc policy assertions, simply will not do. The court therefore reaffirms its conclusion that DACA’s rescission was unlawful and must be set aside."

Princeton University was a plaintiff in the case. "We are very pleased that the court today reaffirmed its ruling that the government’s termination of the DACA program 'was unlawful and must be set aside,’" Princeton President Christopher L. Eisgruber said in a written statement. "As the court noted, it 'sees no reason to change its earlier determination that DACA’s rescission was arbitrary and capricious.’"

Though three federal judges have to date ruled that the Trump administration's decision to end DACA was arbitrary and capricious, a fourth, from Maryland, ruled in the administration's favor. Judge Roger W. Titus wrote in a March opinion that based on a review of the administrative record, "it was reasonable for [the Department of Homeland Security] to have concluded -- right or wrong -- that DACA was unlawful and should be wound down in an orderly manner."

A spokesman for the Department of Justice said in a written statement that the ruling "doesn’t change the Department of Justice’s position on the facts: DACA was implemented unilaterally after Congress declined to extend benefits to this same group of illegal aliens. As such, it was an unlawful circumvention of Congress.  …The Justice Department will continue to vigorously defend this position, and looks forward to vindicating its position in further litigation," O'Malley said.

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