A federal judge on Friday said the government must restart the entire DACA deportation amnesty, including accepting brand new applications — but gave the administration a chance to appeal before his ruling takes effect.
The ruling by Judge John D. Bates is a major blow to President Trump, and creates even more confusion about his immigration policy.
Judge Bates said Mr. Trump and his Homeland Security Department do have the power to revoke the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, but they cut too many corners in the way they did it.
He said the government needs to prove that it has considered the benefits to society of having immigrants who entered the country illegally here and working, versus the government’s interest in enforcing the laws as written. He said Homeland Security failed to do that in its original revocation last September, and even after he gave it a chance to update its reasoning, it still failed to convince him.
“The court sees no reason to change its earlier determination that DACA’s rescission was arbitrary and capricious,” he ruled.
Other courts had already put the revocation on hold and ordered the government to renew applications of some 700,000 people who already had DACA status and who reapplied.
But those courts had declined to restart the program in full, meaning new applications.
Judge Bates’ order would do that.
He did stay his own order for 20 days to give the government a chance to appeal. The government is already appealing the other judges’ orders, and it’s likely they do so in this case as well — potentially speeding the case toward an eventual date with the Supreme Court.
Further complicating the DACA situation is another case brewing in Texas, where that state is challenging the original 2012 policy itself. That could lead to a situation where one judge rules DACA illegal, while others rule the phaseout illegal — leaving the administration in an impossible bind.
The judge in that case has a hearing scheduled soon, and both sides have been filing extensive briefs.
Texas, which is leading the legal challenge, says DACA is a new amnesty-style program that should have either gone through Congress or at the very least through the regular notice and comment that major policies are required to go through.
“DACA is a complete abdication of federal immigration statutes,” Texas said in its filing last week.
A number of liberal-leaning states and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund have stepped in to defend DACA, arguing it was legal when the Obama administration created it.
The Trump administration isn’t mounting a defense — but has said it’s worried about how it would reconcile competing decisions from the courts.
DACA protects young adults who entered the U.S. as children from deportation and grants them work permits, giving them access to jobs, driver’s licenses and some taxpayer benefits.
The Obama administration cut corners when it announced the program in 2012 — but some judges have said that the previous administration’s behavior is not a justification for the new administration to cut corners also.
Indeed, that corner-cutting has become a major hindrance for Mr. Trump, who has seen judges use the same grounds to question much of his immigration policy, environmental regulation rollbacks, and Obamacare decisions.
DACA may be the most politically charged of those, however.
The issue led Democrats to shut down the government earlier this year, and attempts to pass immigration reforms that would grant full legal status to “Dreamers” covered by DACA have failed in both the House and Senate this year.