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What the Latest Federal Court Decision Means for the Future of DACA

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This week, a U.S. District Court judge in Washington, D.C. ruled that the Trump Administration was wrong to end the deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA) program the way it did and ordered the Administration to come back within 90 days — or start accepting new DACA applications again.

This may be one of the most consequential court decision in favor of DACA since the Trump Administration ended the program last fall. In the last eight months, numerous rulings have kept DACA afloat despite efforts from Donald Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and co-conspirators like Texas AG Ken Paxton to end the program. To recap:

  • On September 5, 2017, Jeff Sessions announced that DACA would be phased out in two tiers: everyone whose DACA expired before March 5, 2018 would be given one last chance to renew. Everyone whose DACA expired after that date would only have DACA until their next expiration date.
  • In January 2018, a San Francisco court ruled against the way Trump ended DACA and ordered the Administration to allow Dreamers who already have DACA to be able to keep renewing. Dreamers who had never applied for DACA, or those who were too young to qualify before September 2017, were unable to enter the program.
  • In February 2018, a New York judge handed down a similar ruling.
  • Also in February, the Supreme Court rejected the Trump Administration’s effort to leapfrog over the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals — the traditional route for appealing the San Francisco decision — lengthening the court battle for the Trump Administration.

All three federal court judges — in San Francisco, New York, and Washington, D.C. — have ruled against the Trump Administration based on what’s called the Administrative Procedure Act, which prevents the executive branch from using its considerable powers in capricious or unpredictable ways. The judges acknowledged that DACA is an executive order and that Trump has the power to rescind it. But Trump is required to go about it a specific way — namely, by providing reasoning and justification.

As Judge John Bates of the Washington, D.C. court — a George W. Bush appointee — wrote this week, “the legal judgment [to end DACA] was virtually unexplained, however, and so it cannot support the agency’s decision.” He noted that Dreamers have gone to college, completed degrees, obtained jobs, become homeowners, and more, based on the assumption that DACA would be around. The Trump Administration cannot just take that away without providing some kind of rationale, which is what the Administration has been ordered to deliver within 90 days.

This ruling, for now, helps Dreamers because every day that DACA is tied up in court is another day that Dreamers get to renew their status, legally work, and enjoy protection from deportation. If the Trump Administration is unable to properly respond to Judge Bates’ order, then in 90 days, Dreamers who have never had DACA before will be able to apply, and tens of thousands of Dreamers may become the first new program recipients since last September.

It should be noted that the Trump Administration has only itself to blame for the protracted legal battle it finds itself in now, thanks to its great haste to end DACA and false conviction that the program is unconstitutional. The Administration could have taken its time trying to end the program, tried to find legal rationales, gone to the right appeals court after the San Francisco decision was handed down, so forth. But then, that would have required Donald Trump to have good lawyers and to have a legitimate policy reason for ending the program, instead of the blatant racism behind the move.

A note to our readers: please don’t be fooled by notarios! Nothing has changed with DACA for now. Please watch our Facebook Live with immigration lawyer David Leopold for more information about this week’s DACA decision.