(Justice Department photo)

DHS Must Accept New DACA Applications, D.C. District Judge Rules

A D.C. District Court judge ruled Tuesday that the Department of Homeland Security failed to give good reasons behind why the administration deemed that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was unlawful and needed to be rescinded.

Judge John Bates, who was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2001, issued a stern 60-page decision that slammed DHS’ reasoning for ending DACA as “too flimsy and ultimately unpersuasive.”

“DACA’s rescission was arbitrary and capricious because the Department failed adequately to explain its conclusion that the program was unlawful,” Bates wrote. “Neither the meager legal reasoning nor the assessment of litigation risk provided by DHS to support its rescission decision is sufficient to sustain termination of the DACA program.”

The judge wrote that the department’s “failure to give an adequate explanation of its legal judgment was particularly egregious here in light of the reliance interests involved.”

“The Rescission Memo made no mention of the fact that DACA had been in place for five years and had engendered the reliance of hundreds of thousands of beneficiaries, many of whom had structured their education, employment, and other life activities on the assumption that they would be able to renew their DACA benefits,” Bates said. “…Because DHS failed to even acknowledge how heavily DACA beneficiaries had come to rely on the expectation that they would be able to renew their DACA benefits, its barebones legal interpretation was doubly insufficient and cannot support DACA’s rescission.”

It was the third judicial overruling — and the first by a Republican administration appointee — of the Trump administration’s decision to end the program, which provides legal status and work authorization for certain illegal immigrants brought to the country as children. Previously, judges in California and New York have sided against administration arguments for ending DACA.

Bates went a step further, though, and said the administration must “accept and process new as well as renewal DACA applications.” The ruling will take effect in 90 days, a delay that Bates said gives the administration an opportunity to “better explain” why they believe ending the program was justified.

“Plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment will be granted in part, and the decision to rescind DACA will be vacated and remanded to DHS,” Bates wrote. “Vacatur of DACA’s rescission will mean that DHS must accept and process new as well as renewal DACA applications. The Court will stay its order of vacatur for ninety days, however, to allow the agency an opportunity to better explain its rescission decision.”

Justice Department spokesman Devin O’Malley said in a statement that the administration will stand by its assertion that DACA was an “unlawful circumvention of Congress” by President Obama.

“The Department of Homeland Security therefore acted within its lawful authority in deciding to wind down DACA in an orderly manner,” O’Malley said. “Promoting and enforcing the rule of law is vital to protecting a nation, its borders, and its citizens. The Justice Department will continue to vigorously defend this position, and looks forward to vindicating its position in further litigation.”

The March 5 deadline that Trump gave Congress to come up with a legislative solution to save DACA beneficiaries came and went without a bill that also had support of the White House; immigrants currently covered under the program are still protected by court injunctions.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said in a Feb. 14 statement that the agency was “not accepting requests from individuals who have never before been granted deferred action under DACA,” but “due to federal court orders on Jan. 9, 2018 and Feb. 13, 2018, USCIS has resumed accepting requests to renew a grant of deferred action under DACA.”

“The scope of the Feb. 13 preliminary injunction issued in the Eastern District of New York is the same as the Jan. 9 preliminary injunction issued in the Northern District of California,” USCIS said. “Unless otherwise provided in this guidance, the DACA policy will be operated on the terms in place before it was rescinded on Sept. 5, 2017, until further notice.”

The lawsuits in Bates’ ruling were NAACP v. Donald J. Trump and the Trustees of Princeton University v. United States of America. “Princeton, higher education and our country benefit from the talent and aspirations that DREAMers bring to our communities,” Princeton University president Christopher Eisgruber said in reaction to the ruling. “We continue to urge Congress to enact a permanent solution that recognizes the contributions of [Princeton senior] Maria Perales Sanchez and other DREAMers, and offers them the protection and the certainty that they deserve.”

The American Civil Liberties Union, which in February won a temporary injunction protecting DACA beneficiaries’ status in IEIYC & Arreola v. Nielsen, tweeted that the ruling was “a huge blow to the Trump administration’s bottom line.”

“DACA is constitutional, deal with it,” the ACLU added.

Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a senior fellow specializing in terrorism analysis at the Haym Salomon Center. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15, a private investigator and a security consultant. She is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera and SiriusXM.

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