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Apr 25, 2018

Federal Court Opens the Door for Full Reinstatement of DACA

Joshua H. Rolf and Jonathan A. Grode

On Tuesday, the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia struck down the Trump Administration’s decision to terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) program. Federal Courts in New York and California had previously held that the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) must continue to accept Applications for prior DACA recipients, known as Dreamers; the Federal Court in Washington, D.C. went beyond these previously issued injunctions by ordering DHS to accept new DACA Applications. Importantly, the Court has allowed DHS 90 days to proffer a reasonable justification for its decision to rescind DACA protections, meaning the agency will not be forced to accept new DACA Applications for approximately 3 months. If you are a DACA recipient or wish to investigate your eligibility for this program in the near future, please do not hesitate to contact our office.

The 90-day stay from Judge John D. Bates’ decision stems from the Court’s finding that the Trump Administration provided no legal justification for its September 2017 decision to rescind DACA protections for individuals brought to the United States as children and who meet several additional criteria. Though the Trump Administration labeled these protections offered via Executive Order to be illegal, the Court held that the rescission of DACA could not stand as implemented. Specifically, the Court found that DHS’ decision was “arbitrary and capricious because the department failed adequately to explain its conclusion that the program was unlawful,” and that if DHS could not provide an adequate justification for its decision within 90 days, the program would resume in full. 

The opinion of Judge Bates, a George W. Bush appointee, is the latest blow against the Trump Administration’s efforts to re-shape the U.S. immigration system by executive order. This time, the judiciary confirms the Administration must provide a legal and factual basis, not just an unfounded conclusion, for its decision to end DACA, and in doing so hold hostage the future of more than 700,000 DACA recipients in order to obtain increased border security and limits to legal immigration. Indeed, the President and his Administration rejected several bipartisan plans that would have protected Dreamers and offered them a path to citizenship in exchange for providing funding for the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, due to its belief that the bill did not do enough on security or to curb legal immigration to the United States. Now, with no deal in sight, several courts have ruled that this cruel bargaining chip violates the law, as enacted; and unless the Department of Justice provides a suitable legal justification for its decision to end DACA within 90 days (which it has said it will), DHS will be required to accept new DACA Applications along with the renewals it is presently mandated to process.

As with the Travel Bans, challenges to which are set for Oral Argument today at the U.S. Supreme Court, the Trump Administration’s executive action on DACA fulfills a campaign promise – cracking down on undocumented immigrants - while simultaneously demonstrating a lack of internal legal scrutiny in its drafting and implementation of immigration-related policy. Moreover, it is part and parcel with the President and his Administration’s negative portrayal of immigrant communities (not to mention degradation of the nations from which they come), and efforts to make life more difficult for foreign nationals present in the United States or seeking admission, a topic we have covered at length. We at Green and Spiegel remain dedicated to working on behalf of our clients in all of their endeavors, and applaud our colleagues whose hard work has protected so many.

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