A US federal judge has sided with the plaintiffs in a case filed against the Trump administration’s move to rescind Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which had sparked a wave of protests in September.
DC District Judge John Bates on Friday upheld his earlier ruling from April 24, that found the White House’s decision to scrap the policy, which has shielded about 800,000 migrants from deportation since it was adopted in 2012, was “arbitrary and capricious.”
“The Court therefore reaffirms its conclusion that DACA’s rescission was unlawful and must be set aside,” he wrote in a 25-page opinion on Friday.
The court argued that the memorandum issued by Homeland Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in June, that was supposed to offer a legally sound explanation for the government’s action, failed “to elaborate meaningfully on the agency’s primary rationale for its decision: the judgment that the policy was unlawful and unconstitutional.”
Bates contended that although the memo provides several new reasons for the court to review its decision, the majority of them “simply repackage legal arguments previously made.” The only one “bona fide (albeit logically dubious) reason” offered by Nielsen was not enough to sway the court’s opinion, Bates wrote, since it was “articulated nowhere in DHS’s prior explanation for its decision” and hence cannot come into play now.
Calling the renewed justification provided by the department “a hodgepodge of illogical or post hoc policy assertions” that “simply will not do,” the court at the same time stressed its ruling does not mean that the DHS is not entitled to rescind the program in principal, but that it “must give a rational explanation” if it wants to do so.
Bates, who in April gave the government a 90-day window so that DHS could come up with what the court will perceive as an adequate rationale to shut down DACA, on Friday provided the Trump administration with only 20 days to decide if it will appeal the ruling and seek a temporary stay in execution.
The decision is an important landmark in the litigation over DACA’s validity, that saw the Trump administration being challenged by multiple lawsuits across the country. Should the ruling come into force, The White House will have to restart the DACA program in full.
In his April ruling Bates wrote that if the DHS fails to issue a memo that would prove that the program was unlawful and unconstitutional, as insisted by the government, “the Rescission Memo will be vacated in its entirety, and the original DACA program will be restored in full.”
Since US President Donald Trump rescinded the Obama-era program on September 5, the White House has been embroiled in numerous legal battles. While the administration has won some, with Trump praising Judge Roger W. Titus of Maryland, who ruled in March that the President was within his authority to rescind the executive order issued by his predecessor, it has suffered more losses so far.
A California court in January ordered to partially restart the program, while a New York judge in February issued an injunction ordering the government to maintain DACA, although that will not require DHS to accept new applications. Several government appeals are still pending in US courts.
Bates’ ruling was applauded by The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), a plaintiff in the case, which called it a “huge victory.”
“This represents a powerful victory against attempts to dehumanize immigrants who are law-abiding and productive residents of the United States and who were long ago brought to this country as children through no fault of their own,” NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson said.