On Tuesday, Judge John D. Bates of Federal Court for the District of Columbia delivered the largest setback yet for the Trump Administration: he ruled that DACA protections must remain and that new applications must be accepted again.
Judge Bates stated that the administration’s decision to terminate DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, was based on grounds that were “virtually unexplained,” declaring the program somehow “unlawful.” Bates did give the Department of Homeland Security the opportunity to better explain its reasons for declaring the program unlawful. The judge stayed his decision for 90 days. If the Department of Homeland Security cannot explain its reasoning, Judge Bates stated that the department “must accept and process new as well as renewal DACA applications.”
This was the third recent ruling against the administration’s attempt to eliminate DACA. So far, judges in Brooklyn and San Francisco both issued injunctions to keep the program in place. However, this is the first decision that could require the government to accept new applications.
In January, Judge William Alsup of the Federal District Court in San Francisco ruled that those protected by DACA must be allowed to renew their status. Janet Napolitano, then secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, led the filing of the lawsuit by the University of California.
The next ruling was by Judge Nicholas Garaufis of the Federal District Court in Brooklyn, and was in favor of the attorneys general from 15 states who sued to prevent the program’s end. The current ruling from Bates will automatically rescind the program’s cancellation unless the administration can provide further justification for its stance. The latest lawsuit was filed by the N.A.A.C.P., Princeton University and Microsoft.
Princeton’s university president, Christopher L. Eisgruber, released a statement saying “Princeton higher education and our country benefit from the talent and aspirations that Dreamers bring to our communities.”
The DACA program was established by the Obama administration and was based on the premise that those brought to the country as children (commonly called Dreamers) should be the lowest priority for deportation. The program also gave them the opportunity to legally work in the United States. It is estimated that between 700,000 and 800,000 immigrants are protected under DACA.
It is worth noting that Judge Bates was nominated by President George W. Bush in 2001, but still saw the Trump administration’s “conservative” stance on DACA as “arbitrary and capricious because the department failed adequately to explain its conclusion that the program was unlawful.”
In September, President Trump announced his intention to end DACA, and in late February, the White House made an unusual request for the Supreme Court to immediately decide whether the program could be ended. The Court declined the request. His administration then rescinded the program in March. The administration argued that Obama had abused his authority in his creation of the program by circumventing Congress, and Trump called for Congress to instead find a legislative solution. He expressed support for providing a path to citizenship for those protected by DACA. Though there is increasing bipartisan support for DACA, Congress has yet to agree on a policy to protect them.
Since encouraging congress, however, Trump’s position on immigration has wavered and moved toward more aggressive policies, such as calling for a crackdown on illegal immigration while building a wall along the Mexican border.