Maryland Judge Tosses DACA Challenge

GREENBELT, Md. (CN) – Calling on lawmakers to end the impasse on immigration reform, a federal judge said Monday that courts lack jurisdiction to consider related challenges.

“The result of this case is not one that this court would choose if it were a member of a different branch of our government,” wrote U.S. District Judge Roger Titus. “An overwhelming percentage of Americans support protections for ‘Dreamers,’ yet it is not the province of the judiciary to provide legislative or executive actions when those entrusted with those responsibilities fail to act.”

Officials in the Trump administration provoked the suit at issue in Maryland along with several others last year when it announced it would terminate the program Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, otherwise known as DACA, which offered certain protections to qualifying young immigrants who might otherwise be at risk of deportation.

The challengers here contend that the program’s sudden rollback violated their Fifth Amendment rights to due process and equal protection, but Titus determined Monday that the Trump administration “carefully crafted” and properly explained its decision.

Proponents of the DACA program should litigate the decision during the next election, not in the courts, Titus wrote.

The George W. Bush appointee explained in a 30-page ruling that court decisions striking down expansions of the program during the final two years of the Obama administration gave Attorney General Jeff Sessions reason to believe DACA was illegal. Unlike other judges who have considered the issue, Titus wrote he did not consider President Donald Trump’s “unfortunate and often inflammatory rhetoric” when making his decision.

“DHS’s rational provided in the DACA rescission memo was a belief, based on recent court decisions and the advice of the attorney general, that DACA was unlawful,” Titus wrote, using an abbreviation for the Department of Homeland Security. “Assuming that a reasonable basis for that belief exists in the administrative record, how could trying to avoid unlawful action possibly be arbitrary and capricious? Quite simply, it cannot. Regardless of whether DACA is, in fact, lawful or unlawful, the belief that it was unlawful and subject to serious legal challenge is completely rational.”

While he upheld the administration’s decision to end the program, Titus blocked the government from using the information DACA recipients provided in their applications for immigration enforcement.

The decision goes against, but does not strike down, injunctions put in place by federal judges in New York and California who determined the administration arbitrarily decided to wind down the DACA program. Those rulings kept DACA in place temporarily, invalidating the March 5 deadline at which the program was set to expire if Congress did not act.

The Senate last month struck down multiple proposals that would have revived the program, though lawmakers noted the injunctions alleviated some of the pressure the deadline placed on them to pass a bill.

President Donald Trump hailed the court’s decision on Tuesday morning, blaming President Barack Obama for not taking more action on the issue.

“Federal judge in Maryland has just ruled that ‘President Trump has the right to end DACA,'” Trump wrote on Twitter. “President Obama had eight years to fix this problem, and didn’t. I am waiting for the Dems, they are running for the hills!”

CASA, one of the groups that brought the challenge, said it is still evaluating its legal options on the ruling.

“The judiciary is the last line of defense for the Dreamers and we still hope we can depend on the courts to save our young people from deportations,” CASA Executive Director Gustavo Torres said in a statement. “With the lack of action from Congress and the president’s decision to cancel the program with no solution in place, we see the judiciary branch as our last hope. President Trump broke up DACA and as far as we see it, is showing no intention to fix it.”

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