A federal judge on Friday ordered the government to revive the DACA program as it existed before President Trump tried to phase it out in 2017, which means opening it up to brand new applications.
That’s a key issue that had remained in limbo after last month’s Supreme Court ruling, which found the Trump phaseout cut too many corners.
U.S. District Judge Paul W. Grimm, sitting in Maryland, issued an order restoring all parts of the program back to where they were, which means not only protecting current recipients but also approving new ones.
It also renews an indirect pathway to citizenship, known as Advance Parole, that some DACA applicants had used to gain green cards.
“The rescission of the DACA policy is vacated, and the policy is restored to its pre-September 5, 2017 status,” Judge Grimm said in his Friday directive. “Defendants and their agents, servants, employees, attorneys, and all persons in active concert or participation with any of them, are enjoined from implementing or enforcing the DACA rescission and from taking any other action to rescind DACA that is not in compliance with applicable law.”
Last month’s Supreme Court ruling had maintained the deportation amnesty at the heart of DACA for more than 640,000 “Dreamers” already enrolled, but the administration had not approved any new applications.
Activists and Democrats on Capitol Hill had demanded a full restart, and on Friday they praised the judge for ordering it.
“I thought President Trump was the ‘law and order’ president? And yet he’s in direct defiance of our courts,” said Sen. Richard Durbin, an Illinois Democrat who is Dreamers’ leading advocate on Capitol Hill.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.
CASA, the Maryland-based immigrant-rights group that was the plaintiff in the case, said the new order means the administration will have to restart the indirect pathway to citizenship that the Obama administration allowed for DACA recipients, known as Advance Parole.
DACA recipients who get permission to leave the country and return under advance parole can have their previous illegal status cleared as a bar to getting a green card, which is the key step on the path to citizenship.
“Today’s order from Judge Grimm mandates that the government follow the law and immediately reopen the full DACA program, including by accepting and timely processing initial applications and allowing DACA recipients to apply for Advance Parole,” CASA said in a statement.
DACA grants a two-year stay of deportation and work permits to illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as juveniles, who arrived in 2007 or before, and who are under an age limit. They also have to have completed high school or be pursuing an equivalent degree, and to have kept a somewhat clean criminal rap sheet.
During the three-year legal battle over Mr. Trump’s phaseout, those in the program could renew their applications, but no new applicants were accepted.
After the Supreme Court’s ruling last month, activist groups rushed to help file new applications from Dreamers who’d would have qualified but had been too young to apply before the phaseout began.
The groups said U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has yet to approve any of them.
Even after the court decision, USCIS still retains discretion to reject applications, but its rejection rate was less than 10% before the phaseout.
President Trump has hinted he will attempt another phaseout of DACA, this time following all the procedures the courts said he skipped last time. But he has also sent other signals, including a confusion claim that he will sign something granting DACA recipients a direct pathway to citizenship.
Over the eight-year life of DACA, more than 800,000 people have been approved, and as of March 643,560 were still active. Others either failed to renew or, in many cases, gained a more permanent legal status — including some that used the Advance Parole option to gain a green card.