- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 9, 2018

The Trump administration told a federal judge late Friday that it won’t defend the legality of the Obama-era DACA amnesty — but said the court should be wary of cutting it off entirely, as states such as Texas have requested.

“Federal defendants agree — DACA is unlawful,” the Justice Department said in a brief filed with Judge Andrew S. Hanen in Texas, agreeing with the reasoning of Judge Hanen and a higher-up appeals court from several years ago that the Obama administration overstepped its powers by granting a categorical amnesty to potentially millions of immigrants who crossed the border illegally.

But the Justice Department said it didn’t want to see the judge issue a nationwide injunction that would stop the program in its tracks, saying the current legal situation is too messy already.

The move leaves it to immigrant-rights advocates and, perhaps, Democratic states, to defend the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in what’s likely to be the final legal showdown for the embattled program.

DACA, announced by the Obama administration in 2012, is currently protecting some 700,000 “Dreamers” from deportation, and offers them work permits and Social Security numbers. They are eligible for some taxpayer benefits.

But the program has been controversial and legally suspect from the start — President Obama repeatedly said he lacked the power to create such a program, before reversing himself and claiming such powers.

The Trump administration last year concluded the program was, in fact, illegal, and moved to phase it out.

While a judge in Maryland agreed with the move, judges in California, New York and Washington, D.C., said the Trump administration cut too many corners and the phaseout was illegal. They ordered the president to restart the program, at least in terms of renewing two-year amnesties for people who have been previously approved for DACA.

Texas, meanwhile, which won a battle in 2015 to stop a broader deportation amnesty attempt by the Obama administration, is now demanding Judge Hanen step in and stop the program by ruling it illegal.

The administration’s new brief cuts a middle ground between Texas and the pro-DACA courts.

The Justice Department says it agrees with Texas that the program is illegal, but doesn’t want the court to issue an injunction, saying that would create even more of a legal mess.

“If this court issues an injunction ordering federal defendants to end the DACA policy, federal defendants will face simultaneous conflicting court orders — which highlights the impropriety of issuing nationwide injunctions as a general matter,” government lawyers said.

They said if Judge Hanen does issue an injunction, they hoped he would at least grant a two-week grace period so the government could rush to the Supreme Court and try to get the conflicts sorted out.

A similar request made to the justices was rejected earlier this year.

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