- The Washington Times - Monday, June 12, 2017

A federal judge ordered Homeland Security Monday to reinstate an amnesty for a Dreamer and blasted the government for “running roughshod” over a young woman in a ruling that breaks new ground in legal rights for illegal immigrants.

Judge Mark H. Cohen ruled that the department didn’t follow its own procedures when it stripped Jessica Colotl of her status under President Obama’s 2012 amnesty, known in government-speak as DACA.

The judge ordered her deportation amnesty and her work permit be kept in place, and sent U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services — the Homeland Security agency that handles applications — back to consider Ms. Colotl’s case again.

“The public has an interest in government agencies being required to comply with their own written guidelines instead of engaging in arbitrary decision making,” Judge Cohen said.

When the Obama administration established the program it said DACA was entirely at the discretion of Homeland Security, and could be revoked.

But the decision by Judge Cohen, who was appointed to the federal courts by Mr. Obama, suggests illegal immigrants can go to court to claim they have a right to a process, if not an outcome.

Judge Cohen said the government’s interest in enforcing its laws “does not justify them running roughshod over [Ms. Colotl] by ignoring their own required procedures.”

Ms. Colotl said that with her work permit restored, she’ll be back at work this week. And immigrant-rights advocates cheered the decision, saying they hoped it would protect other Dreamers the administration is trying to deport.

“This is good news for Jessica and for the rule of law,” said Michael Tan, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, who represented Ms. Colotl.

The DACA program grants a renewable stay of deportation and work permits to illegal immigrants who have kept a relatively clean record, were brought to the U.S. as children and were 30 years of age or younger in 2012, and who had worked toward a high school diploma.

Ms. Colotl had been twice approved by the Obama administration, but the Trump administration initially said her guilty plea in an old case amounted to admitting to lying to a police officer — which could be considered a felony. The government since has said the way Ms. Colotl’s case played out, it didn’t amount to a felony.

Still, the government said under the new administration, Ms. Colotl was deemed a priority for deportation.

Under new Secretary John F. Kelly, the government is still approving DACA applications, and Mr. Kelly said he’ll protect Dreamers from deportation. But a handful of cases have arisen where the government has gone after Dreamers, arguing their past criminal records either should have made them ineligible from the start, or should now make them lose their status.

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