A District Judge in DC just issued a ruling enjoining the president’s rescission of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. U.S. District Judge John Bates joined two other courts in making his decision, arguing that the administration had failed to supply adequate reasoning for shutting down DACA in September. The DACA program was instituted under the Obama administration, and it allows certain undocumented immigrants who entered the states in their youth to remain and work in the US. Applicants to the DACA program, known as Dreamers, must apply to the program every two years and must be 15 years of age to apply.
Two other cases are working their way through the courts in California and New York, where proceedings could drag on for months while plaintiffs attempt to extract evidence from the administration. Judge Bates’ decision triples down on a nationwide injunction requiring the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to renew DACA applications that have already been admitted. The latest decision is unique in that may force the DHS to allow new applications to be submitted.
In his opinion, Judge Bates, a George W. Bush appointee, highlighted the lack of substantial reasoning on the part of the US Government, referring to the rescission as “arbitrary and capricious because the Department [of Homeland Security] failed adequately to explain its conclusion that the program was unlawful.” He continued, “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 ordered the US Government to end its cancellation of the program and to allow new applications to be turned in and reviewed. He did however leave one qualification: “The Court will stay its order of vacatur for ninety days, however, to allow the agency an opportunity to better explain its rescission decision.” If the agency can come up with sufficient reasoning in 90 days new DACA applications will continue to be rejected.
This recent decision may be a win for undocumented immigrants in the US, but it could also add to the confusion brought forth by District Judge Aslup of the Northern District of California, who issued a preliminary injunction asking the USCIS to implement a renewal program within a reasonable timeframe. As noted by Vox, not only is a “reasonable” timeframe vague, but the order itself does not give anything in way of guidance to the thousands of immigrants who could submit their applications (and the $495 fee). For instance, immigrants could decide to submit an application and find that they unknowingly broke USCIS rules yet to be published. Needless to say, the injunction is rife with questions, and this most recent decision may lead to similar confusion.
Nonetheless, Bates’ decision has a lot of potential, assuming the US Government fails in supplying sufficient reasoning for its cancellation within the 90-day window. If the Department of Homeland Security fails in this regard, new applications could be submitted and DACA recipients would be permitted to leave and return to the US without being deported. The ruling, if implemented, could affect hundreds of thousands of people, according to an analysis published by Vox.
The Justice Department issued a statement “vigorously” defending its position: “[DHS] acted within its lawful authority in deciding to wind down DACA in an orderly manner.” The statement continued, “Promoting and enforcing the rule of law is vital to protecting a nation, its borders, and its citizens.”
The case brought before Judge Bates involved a number of plaintiffs, including the NAACP, Princeton and Microsoft. In a statement to the press, Princeton University President Christopher L. Eisgruber said the following: “Princeton higher education and our country benefit from the talent and aspirations that Dreamers bring to our communities.” He continued, “We continue to urge Congress to enact a permanent solution.”
When shutting down the DACA program, Trump argued that Obama had overstepped his bounds as president and that Congress needed to act to replace the program. The legislature has since failed to act, and the president appears to have abandoned any notion of salvaging DACA, having doubled down on his support of anti-immigration policy and an extensive wall lining the border between the US and Mexico.