Tuesday, October 3, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Judge Won’t Pause Lawsuits Over Decision to End Dreamers Program

A federal judge on Friday denied a request by the Trump administration to pause proceedings in multiple lawsuits challenging the decision to end a program that shields young undocumented immigrants from deportation. 

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – A federal judge on Friday denied a request by the Trump administration to pause proceedings in multiple lawsuits challenging the decision to end a program that shields young undocumented immigrants from deportation.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup said the administration's motion for a stay would "irreparably harm" people enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, in light of the government's March 5 deadline to end the program.

"The court intends to reach a decision before the March 5 deadline, on a substantial and complete record, which can be reviewed by our court of appeals, and has set a schedule that will accomplish this," he wrote in a 4-page ruling. "A stay risks allowing this deadline to pass without a decision on the merits, and therefore poses a substantial threat to our plaintiffs and to DACA enrollees."

The Trump administration had asked for a stay of the case's discovery and administrative record proceedings while it appeals Alsup's Oct. 17 order to produce documents at the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice that Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke considered in making her decision to cancel the program.

The plaintiffs, consisting of the state of California, the University of California, the city of San Jose, Santa Clara County and a group of DACA recipients in five related cases, sued President Donald Trump and Homeland Security within days of a Sept. 5 announcement to phase out DACA beginning in six months – potentially jeopardizing the future of 800,000 program recipients, nicknamed Dreamers.

Dreamers, brought to the United States as undocumented children, must meet certain conditions to stay in the country, such as attending school and passing criminal background checks. California is home to more than a quarter of all Dreamers, more than any other state.

The plaintiffs claim the decision was illegal under the Administrative Procedure Act, and that the administration must hand over the documents it considered to show why it canceled the program.

When the administration produced only the documents that Duke personally considered, the plaintiffs moved for a court order to also produce every document and communication she "indirectly" considered, especially ones viewed by Duke’s subordinates and anyone at the Justice Department.

They reasoned they should get the Justice Department documents because the decision was purportedly based on a letter from U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions that deemed DACA illegal, and because it was Sessions who announced the decision to the public. At a Monday hearing, University of California attorney Jeffrey Davidson said those factors meant the Justice Department could have been the agency that actually cancelled the program.

Alsup called the amount of material requested "bone-crushing," but largely ruled in the plaintiffs' favor when the next day he ordered production of materials, including emails, letters and memos, that Duke indirectly considered, and materials considered by those who directly advised her, including at the Justice Department and the White HouseThe administration then moved for a stay, arguing, among other things, that its decision was unreviewable under federal immigration law.

But Alsup on Friday rejected that contention, calling the administration's interpretation of the law "strained and inaccurate."

The law "only bars judicial review of decisions 'by the Attorney General to [1] commence proceedings, [2] adjudicate cases, or [3] execute removal orders,' none of which are at issue here," he wrote, quoting from 8 U.S.C. 1252(g). "This provision has been 'narrowly construed' and is plainly inapplicable to this action.

"[T]he public’s interest is best served by a thorough, transparent, and expeditious resolution of this litigation," he concluded. "[A]ny alleged 'irreparable harm' imposed upon the government related to their discovery burden pales in comparison to that which will be faced by DACA enrollees."

Davidson is with Covington & Burling in San Francisco. The Justice Department is represented by Brad Rosenberg in Washington. Neither attorney immediately returned requests for comment Friday morning.

Categories / Courts, Government

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.