Immigration Law

Judge rules Trump administration must restore DACA

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Karen Roach/

Updated: A federal judge in Washington, D.C., has ruled the government must restore the program protecting immigrants brought to the country illegally as minors.

U.S. District Judge John Bates rejected the government’s latest explanation for its decision to wind down the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), report, Courthouse News Service, BuzzFeed News, the New York Times and Politico. Bates ruled in combined cases filed by the NAACP, Microsoft and Princeton University.

Bates had ruled in April that the phaseout of the program was arbitrary and capricious, but gave the government 90 days to provide a better explanation for its decision. On Friday, Bates said a new memo from Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen “fails to elaborate meaningfully on the agency’s primary rationale for its decision: the judgment that the policy was unlawful or unconstitutional.”

Bates vacated the government decision to rescind the program. But he said he isn’t holding that Homeland Security lacks the statutory or constitutional authority to rescind DACA.

“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,” he 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.”

Bates delayed his order for 20 days to give the government time to decide whether to appeal and to seek a stay of his decision.

Bates’ order requiring restoration of the program goes beyond rulings of two other federal judges, who have required DHS to accept applications for renewal of benefits, but not applications for new benefits, while the litigation is pending.

Bates’ order could conflict with an upcoming ruling by a federal judge in Texas in a suit claiming the Obama administration overstepped its authority by implementing the program, according to the Times.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions released a statement criticizing Bates’ decision, report the Hill and Politico.

“We strongly disagree with the district court’s decision,” he said. “The Department of Justice will take every lawful measure to vindicate the Department of Homeland Security’s lawful rescission of DACA.”

Sessions said the DACA program should have been implemented by Congress, rather than by a policy letter. “Not only did the Trump Administration have the authority to withdraw this guidance letter, it had a duty to do so,” Sessions said.

Story updated at 3:25 p.m.. to include Sessions’ comments.

See also:

ABA Journal: “Judge blocks DACA rescission; White House calls decision ‘outrageous’ “

ABA Journal: “Second federal judge halts DACA termination”

ABA Journal: “A third federal judge rules against DACA phaseout, but goes further than two previous judges”

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