A federal judge in New York ruled Tuesday that the government must restart the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals deportation amnesty, adding more weight to the legal case against President Trump’s phaseout of the program just as Congress is debating the fate of “Dreamers” on Capitol Hill.
Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis said the administration does have the power to revoke DACA, but it must give a sound reason for doing so — and the Homeland Security Department’s September 2017 rationale fell far short of what is required in that regard.
He even used Mr. Trump’s own tweets as evidence that the DACA program was ended precipitously, pointing to President Trump’s claims that he could “revisit this issue” as proof the program could have been continued.
Judge Garaufis is the second federal judge to rule Mr. Trump’s aides bungled the phaseout, following a case in a federal court in California.
“The question before the court is thus not whether defendants could end the DACA program, but whether they offered legally adequate reasons for doing so,” wrote Judge Garaufis, a Clinton appointee to the court in New York. “Based on its review of the record before it, the court concludes that defendants have not done so.”
The judge said the Trump administration can still rescind the program in the future if it does it the right way.
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And he said the administration doesn’t have to approve any specific DACA applications. But it must begin to process applications again.
Both immigrant-rights groups and homeland security officials said the new ruling has the same effect as the California judge’s decision.
The earlier ruling by Judge William Alsup in California is already being appealed by the Justice Department. The government has even asked for the Supreme Court to take the case, skipping over the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The justices are weighing that request.
Mr. Trump had set a March 5 phaseout data for the DACA program. Created by the Obama administration through executive action in 2012, DACA currently protects nearly 700,000 Dreamers from deportation.
Mr. Trump had said the program was illegal and announced the phaseout, saying it was up to Congress to come up with a more firm legal status for Dreamers.
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But in the months following, Mr. Trump had also said he would consider extending the March 5 deadline. In one September tweet he said that if Congress didn’t act, “I will revisit this issue.”
Judge Garaufis said that undercut the president’s own legal team, saying it’s “not clear that the attorney general’s views are those of the administration he serves.”
In revoking DACA last year, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke said they were facing the threat of a lawsuit and doubted they could legally defend the program. They said it was more humane to do a six-month phaseout than to have a court end the program abruptly.
Judge Garaufis said that was not a compelling argument, and said DACA is neither unconstitutional nor illegal. He repeatedly criticized the Justice Department’s handling of the case, in one instance suggesting they were playing games with timing.
“The court is not pleased,” the judge wrote in a footnote.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency that handles DACA, did not have an immediate reaction to the ruling.
The agency had already begun to accept renewal applications under the first court order.
But it has refused to release any details of how that process is going, refusing requests from both reporters and immigrant-rights groups.
Interest has, apparently, been strong even before the latest ruling.
The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA) has been running sign-up drives several times a week since Judge Alsup’s first ruling, and said people have lined up for help to renew their permits.
CHIRLA is helping incentivize applicants by offering to pay the $495 USCIS renewal fee.
Jorge-Mario Cabrera, the group’s spokesman, said they’ve already helped 310 people apply for renewals. He said most of those applying had DACA protections, had seen them expire, and are now rushing to renew them to ensure they can continue to work.
“They feel having DACA will protect them from being fired or to get a job,” he said.
Several East Coast organizations contacted by The Washington Times did not respond to messages about how their sign-ups were going.