MANHATTAN (CN) — Last year, the Trump administration unilaterally undermined a nearly 30-year-old program meant to provide humanitarian protections to young immigrants abused, neglected or abandoned in their countries of birth.
A federal judge in Manhattan signed an order Monday declaring that policy change illegal and granting class-action status to those affected by it.
“This court shall retain jurisdiction over the action for three years after the entry of judgment,” U.S. District Judge John Koeltl wrote in a seven-page order.
Koeltl’s decree falls weeks after his initial ruling blasting the Trump administration for weakening the Special Immigration Juvenile program without justification.
“Because the agency’s policy is contrary to the plain language of the SIJ statute, lacks a reasoned explanation, is premised on erroneous interpretations of state law, and was not enacted with adequate notice, the policy is arbitrary and capricious, ‘in excess of statutory jurisdiction,’ and ‘without observance of procedure required by law,’” Koeltl wrote on March 15.
Created by Congress in 1990, the Special Immigrant Juvenile program has sought to provide minors facing danger in their birth countries with a path to legal permanent residency and citizenship.
All qualifying immigrants under the age of 21 could apply through their state courts for what is known as SIJ status.
That was until U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services changed its definition of what qualifies as a juvenile court, effectively eliminating relief in the Empire State for immigrants between the ages of 18 and 21.
Beth Krause, the supervising attorney for the Legal Aid Society’s Immigrant Youth Project, hailed Koeltl’s order as a “huge step” for young immigrants denied this humanitarian status.
“Immigrant youth who reside in New York State and who survived abuse, abandonment, or neglect will now be put on a path towards securing a green card,” Krause wrote in a statement.
Like most judicial orders chipping away at the Trump administration’s agenda, Koeltl’s ruling found that the White House violated the Administrative Procedure Act, a law mandating a certain degree of process and justification for government actions.
A Washington Post investigation from last month found that nearly two-thirds of cases against the Trump administration accuse the president of violating this law.
Despite a normal “win rate” of 70 percent for the government, the Trump administration prevailed only 6 percent of the time in such cases, the investigation found.
During a three-hour hearing in February, Judge Koeltl roasted government attorneys for showing little public rationale for their new position.
“The policy manual does not set out what is claimed to be the new policy, at all,” the judge scolded them at the time.
On the opposite coast on Monday, a different federal judge found the Trump administration also acted arbitrarily in implementing the Migrant Protection Protocols program, informally known as “Stay in Mexico.”
“This injunction turns on the narrow issue of whether the MPP complies with the Administrative Procedure Act,” U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg wrote in the 27-page order. “The conclusion of this order is only that plaintiffs are likely to show it does not.”
President Trump has been purging leaders within the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees various agencies involved in immigration matters.
Multiple news outlets have reported that the overhaul has to do with Trump firing personnel resisting his commands that defy judicious orders.