Federal Judge Orders Restoration of DACA

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients listen to speakers during a news conference in Phoenix after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the DACA program Thursday, June 18, 2020. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

BROOKLYN (CN) — A federal judge on Friday ordered the Trump administration to reinstate the immigration program offering deferred action for children entering the United States illegally. 

The order follows a Nov. 14 ruling by U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis, who found that Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf was unlawfully holding office when he issued a July 28 memorandum effectively suspending DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. 

Wolf’s memo blocked new DACA applications and said that the Trump administration would renew protections for those already in the program, but only for one year, while the previous policy, signed by President Barack Obama, allowed a two-year renewal. 

In a Nov. 18 hearing, Garaufis accused the Trump administration of “running out the clock” on the president’s term to circumvent granting work permits to hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants. 

The so-called “Dreamers” suing the government say the DACA suspension has affected the lives of more than a million people by preventing work permits and splitting up families. 

Karen Tumlin, an attorney for the plaintiffs, told CBS News that Friday’s ruling will end the government’s “attacks on immigrant youth today instead of continuing its losing courtroom battle during the last days of the administration.”

“Today’s ruling opens the door for more than one million immigrant youth who have been unfairly denied their chance to apply for DACA and secure their future in this country,” Tumlin said. “Our brave plaintiffs have said from the beginning of this lawsuit that their home is here, and the court rightly recognized that today.”

Garaufis said putting Wolf in the DHS secretary seat, a move the Senate has not confirmed, violated succession rules under the Homeland Security Act, and therefore the Wolf memo was unlawful. 

Leading up to the order, the states and individuals suing the Trump administration argued that since the Wolf memo was released, some DACA-eligible people have turned 18, meaning they began to accrue unlawful presence in the U.S. without DACA protections. 

Garufis declined to rule on the accrual of unlawful presence as he voided the memo. 

He noted in the partial summary judgment that while vacating a memo would normally be enough to remedy an illegal agency action, in this case, the court has to go a step further to ensure an equitable judicial outcome. 

To provide additional relief, Garufis has given the Trump administration three days to publicly post the policy change, saying it is now accepting DACA requests and renewals based on the program’s terms before the Trump administration tried to cancel the program in 2017. 

“In light of the vacatur, all parties agree that the DACA program is currently governed by its terms as they existed prior to the attempted rescission of September 2017,” Garaufis wrote in the 6-page order. 

Judge Garaufis also instructed the government to schedule a status conference with plaintiffs next week, to discuss plans to notify people individually of the changes. DHS will update the court on its notification progress in January. 

In that update, DHS must reveal the number of first-time DACA applications, parole requests and renewals the agency “received, adjudicated, approved, denied, and rejected” between Nov. 14 and Dec. 31. It must also show how many applications were granted for only one year instead of two. 

“The court believes that these additional remedies are reasonable,” Garaufis writes. “Indeed, the Government has assured the court that a public notice along the lines described is forthcoming.”

The Supreme Court ruled in June that Trump’s 2017 move to end DACA violated federal laws. Nearly 700,000 people were participating when the president tried to end the program, which Obama enacted in 2012.

“I feel that this is what we fought for and what we deserve,” Melody Klingenfuss, a 26-year-old DACA recipient told Courthouse News at the time.

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