Feds Get Reprieve on Processing New DACA Applications

WASHINGTON (CN) – Pending the government’s appeal of an order to reinstate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, a federal judge gave Homeland Security a pass Friday on processing of new applications.

U.S. District Judge John Bates ruled that a stay on new DACA applications is warranted for now, but Homeland Security must still process renewal applications in the meantime.

“The court is mindful that continuing the stay in this case will temporarily deprive certain DACA-eligible individuals, and plaintiffs in these cases, of relief to which the Court has concluded they are legally entitled,” the 9-page opinion says.

Given the uncertainty around the status of the program and the multiple lawsuits concerning its status, Bates said the “confusion would only be magnified” if his Aug. 3 order to reinstate the program is later reversed on appeal.

The Obama-era DACA program has allowed roughly 800,000 individuals otherwise at risk for deportation to obtain work authorization and driver’s licenses, while also  temporarily protecting them from removal orders.

Highlighting the factors used to determine whether a stay is warranted, Bates said the government’s appeal raises “serious legal questions.” That includes whether Homeland Security’s rescission of the DACA program is subject to judicial review, and if so whether the agency’s repeal of the program was arbitrary and capricious under the Administrative Procedure Act.

Bates had determined that it was on Aug. 3, and said the agency failed to assert a rational explanation for ending the program.

Three days later, the government appealed that order to the D.C. Circuit.

Bates noted Friday that Homeland Security could be injured if forced to expend resources to hire and reassign employees to handle an anticipated 100,000 new DACA applications, only to prevail on appeal.

But he also noted that the case for harm to current DACA recipients, who would lose work authorization if Homeland Security did not process their renewals, is much stronger than it is for those who have never had or applied for DACA benefits.

As a result, Bates said the agency must continue to process renewal applications, which it has been doing since mid-2012.

Bates also noted that his order, as compared to two other nationwide preliminary injunctions currently on expedited appeal, is a final judgment.

It “will therefore prevent irreparable harm to plaintiffs and all current DACA beneficiaries should those other injunctions be reversed,” the opinion says. “Hence, it will not be stayed as to renewal applications.”

Joined by the American Federation of Teachers AFL-CIO and the United Food and Commercial International Union AFL-CIO CLC, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People brought the suit in the District of Columbia on Sept. 18, 2017. The case was consolidated with a parallel suit from the Trustees of Princeton University, Microsoft Corporation and DACA recipient Maria de la Cruz Perales Sanchez on Nov. 3, 2017.

According to the ruling, the plaintiffs did not object to stay on new DACA applications.

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