Federal judge rules Trump administration must resume DACA, accept new applicants


Source: Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS

Protesters hold up signs during a rally supporting Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, outside the White House on September 5, 2017. A federal judge ruled Tuesday that the Trump administration must resume the DACA program and accept new applicants.

Gabby Birenbaum and Alan Perez

A federal judge ruled Tuesday that the U.S. government must resume the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and begin accepting new applicants.

U.S. District Judge John Bates is the third judge to strike down the Trump administration’s DACA rollback, which President Donald Trump announced last fall after expressing concerns about the program’s constitutionality. DACA, created through an executive order by former President Barack Obama in 2012, protects undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children from deportation.

Northwestern has expressed its support for the program, and in November joined 18 peer institutions in filing an amicus curiae brief challenging its termination.

Bates stayed his ruling for 90 days to allow the Department of Homeland Security to come up with a more adequate explanation. If it cannot do so, he said, the order to withdraw the program will be vacated and the DHS must “accept and process new as well as renewal applications.”

This latest suit against the Trump administration in the DACA dispute was brought by Princeton University, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and others, who said the decision to end DACA was based on arbitrary reasons.

Countering the plaintiffs’ arguments against the program’s termination, the Trump administration said the plaintiffs did not have legal standing, and that the court lacks jurisdiction over the case. Bates disagreed, saying in his opinion that at least one plaintiff had standing and that the court had “both jurisdiction and statutory authority.”

Bates also said the Homeland Security department’s justification for ending the program was insufficient.

“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.”

Unlike past rulings, Tuesday’s order would allow new applicants to be accepted to the DACA program. Previous injunctions issued by federal judges in San Francisco and Brooklyn only ordered that DACA remain in place.

In a statement Tuesday night, the Justice Department said the DHS “acted within its lawful authority” in the DACA rollback.

“The Justice Department will continue to vigorously defend this position and looks forward to vindicating its position in further litigation,” the statement said.

For NU, Tuesday’s ruling means undocumented students who were brought to the U.S. before the age of 16 would no longer face deportation, and that they would be able to legally work in the U.S. after graduation.

The University has signaled its support for the program before, saying the repeal would harm students and alumni and that NU will continue to fight against the Trump administration’s efforts.

“Universities like ours — elite, private, wealthy universities — are being taken to task politically for being who we are,” Provost Jonathan Holloway told The Daily in November after NU filed an amicus brief in a different case. “I think (we have) all the more reason to stand up and articulate our values.”

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