A federal judge ruled Tuesday that the Trump administration needs to basically resume using President Obama’s playbook for so-called “dreamers.” Obama’s program, known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, allowed certain people, known frequently as “dreamers,” to remain in the country without the threat of deportation if they arrived in the United States as children, met educational or military service requirements, and had good moral character (or lacked serious criminal convictions). DACA has been a lightning rod of criticism for Republicans and Conservatives who think it was too soft on so-called illegal aliens or, at a minimum, was a sweeping program that should not have been carried out by executive action.
READ the judge’s order and injunction below.
The judge, Nicholas G. Garaufis, sitting in the Eastern District of New York, ordered Tuesday that the Trump administration could not cancel the Obama-era amnesty program without having a sound rationale for doing so. The judge’s order forces the Trump administration to do two things. First, the Trump administration must continue to process renewal applications for people who are already in the DACA program. Second — and here’s where the judge goes further than other judges have in the past — the Trump administration must begin processing new applications to the amnesty program, even though cancelling it has been a promise of the Administration for quite some time.
The details of the judge’s order, though, might be viewed as win for the Trump administration, because while the decision requires the government to consider and process applications, it does not require the government to grant applications, for the reasons set forth below.
The 55-page decision, which is a combined memorandum, order, and preliminary injunction, was part of a case filed by a group of “dreamers” against President Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and the head of the Department of Homeland Security. It accused the Trump administration of violating the Administrative Procedure Act by rolling back DACA haphazardly. The APA gives people who are harmed by federal actions the power to sue in court, the decision notes. Though courts are not supposed to substitute their judgement for an agency’s judgement, courts can step in to address agency decisions when those decisions are deemed “arbitrary and capricious.”
“The APA thus sometimes places courts in the formalistic, even perverse, position of setting aside action that was clearly within the responsible agency’s authority, simply because the agency gave the wrong reasons for, or failed to adequately explain, its decision,” the judge pointed out. “Based on the present record, these appears [sic] to be just such cases.”
The Department of Homeland Security attempted to cancel DACA in 2017. The decision clearly notes that the Trump administration can cancel DACA by using different, proper channels.
The decision notes that administrations often “alter or abandon” predecessor policies and, by doing so, “may impose staggering personal, social, and economic costs.”
The judge gave three reasons for issuing an order against the Trump administration. First, the judge rationed that the Trump administration wanted to get rid of DACA because it perceived the program as unconstitutional and violated both the APA and the INA (the Immigration and Nationality Act). The judge believed DACA was constitutional and did not violate those laws. Second, the judge noted that the Trump Administration based its rationale on DACA in part on a flawed interpretation of the constitutionality of DAPA, or the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents program. Third, the judge noted that the Trump administration was “internally contradictory” by attempting to “wind down” DACA in a way inconsistent with the administration’s rationale for ending the program.
The injunction also contains a bullet-point list of things that it does NOT do. In summary:
- The order does NOT hold that the Trump administration’s rescission of DACA was unlawful. The standards are different at this stage in litigation, and this is a preliminary injunction.
- Trump may rescind DACA in the future.
- The order does NOT require the government to grant DACA applications or to grant renewal requests. The government only needs to “consider” applications, not “grant.” them.
- The order allows the government to revoke individual DACA deferred action programs or work authorizations.
The Trump administration might be able to spin this as a victory, since the judge basically left the ultimate decisions in the Trump administration’s wheelhouse.
[Editor’s note: This piece began as a breaking news report. It has since been updated.]