Second Judge Blocks Trump’s Move to End DACA Program

Updated on
  • Federal judge in New York says U.S. should process renewals
  • Judge says administration’s actions were ‘arbitrary’
What Is DACA and Why Is Trump Ending It?

U.S. President Donald Trump’s move to end a program protecting hundreds of thousands of children of undocumented immigrants from deportation was blocked by a federal judge in Brooklyn, New York. It’s the second time in less than two months that a U.S. judge ruled that rescinding the Obama-era program as proposed would be illegal.

U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis ruled Tuesday that the government hasn’t offered legally adequate reasons for ending the program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals -- or DACA. The judge issued a preliminary ruling which ordered the government to keep processing renewal requests, echoing the Jan. 9 ruling of U.S. District Judge William Alsup in San Francisco.

"The decision to end the DACA program appears to rest exclusively on a legal conclusion that the program was unconstitutional," Garaufis said. "Because that conclusion was erroneous, the decision to end the DACA program cannot stand." 

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Sept. 5 that the administration would end the program March 5, calling it "an unconstitutional exercise of authority by the executive branch.” The administration gave Dreamers until Oct. 5 to reapply for their permits.

Trump proposed a resolution to the DACA dispute that would provide a path to citizenship for about 1.8 million immigrants eligible for the Dreamers program in exchange for $25 billion for border security, including a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, ending the ability of U.S. citizens to sponsor relatives for green cards and an end to the visa lottery program.

The president’s proposal is now being considered in the Senate.

McConnell Opens Immigration Debate Backing Trump’s Framework

In his ruling, Garaufis said Sessions erred in concluding the program was unconstitutional because it was enacted by the Obama administration without Congressional authority. Garaufis said "every modern presidential administration" has created programs that have shielded certain aliens from deportation.

The judge also called Sessions’s determination "arbitrary and capricious."

Sixteen states, including New York, and Washington, D.C. sued the Trump administration in September to block the administration’s move to end the program. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman hailed the decision, saying, "federal courts from coast to coast have now reviewed the record and reached the same conclusion: President Trump’s decision to rescind DACA was illegal."

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who was also part of the coalition, said it was "an exciting day for Dreamers and another courtroom defeat for President Trump."

The U.S. Department of Justice didn’t have an immediate comment on the decision.

Trump Tweet

In his ruling, Garaufis questioned whether Sessions’s views are consistent with those of the Trump administration, noting there’s a contradiction between what the attorney general has said and the president’s Sept. 5 tweet stating, "Congress now has 6 months to legalize DACA (something the Obama Administration was unable to do). If they can’t, I will revisit this issue!"

"It is not clear how the President would ‘revisit’ the decision to rescind the DACA program if the DACA program were, as the attorney general has stated, ‘an unconstitutional exercise of authority by the Executive Branch,’" Garaufis said. While the government has argued in court papers that Trump simply "emphasized the need for legislative action," Garaufis said that argument "is unsupported by the text of the President’s tweet."

Garaufis said his order, which like Alsup’s applies nationwide, doesn’t mean that any DACA applicant must be automatically granted an extension nor does it prevent the U.S. from revoking individual DACA recipients’ deferred deportation status. 

The ruling comes three days before the U.S. Supreme Court is set to consider at a private conference whether to hear a Trump administration appeal of Alsup’s ruling. The administration is asking the justices to hear arguments and rule by the end of their term in June.

— With assistance by Greg Stohr

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