Federal judge to Trump administration: Keep DACA going

Demonstrators urging the Democratic Party to protect the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act (DACA) rally outside the office of California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein in Los Angeles Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018. California has the largest number of people who are affected by the law, also known as the Dream Act.
Associated Press / Reed Saxon

Amid an intense political battle over a United States federal program that shields from deportation young Caribbean and other immigrants who were brought illegally to the U.S. as children, a federal judge in California has issued an injunction ordering the Trump administration to restart the program.

Stating that the decision to kill it was improper, Judge William Alsup of Federal District Court in San Francisco wrote on Tuesday that the Trump administration must “maintain the DACA program on a nationwide basis,” as the legal challenge to the U.S. President Trump’s decision proceed.

Former U.S. President Obama created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, in 2012 to also give young immigrants the ability to work legally in the United States. President Donald Trump moved to end the program in September, saying that Obama’s actions were unconstitutional and an overreach of executive power, according to the New York Times.

The Times report said that decision set off a fierce debate in Washington as Democrats and Republicans spar about how to provide relief for about 800,000 immigrants who could face deportation when the program ends on Mar. 5.

Trump met with lawmakers Tuesday afternoon in a remarkable, hour-long televised meeting to begin negotiations, the Times said.

But it said critics of Trump’s decision to end the policy, including several states and organizations, had already sued the administration, saying that shutting down the program was arbitrary and done without following the proper legal procedures.

One of the lead plaintiffs in the case, Janet Napolitano, is currently president of the sprawling University of California system, but served as Secretary of Homeland Security for Obama in 2012 and was an architect of the DACA program, the Times said.

In his ruling, Judge Alsup questioned the administration’s contention that the DACA program had not been put into place legally. He asserted that the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security has long had the authority to grant the kind of temporary protections that formed the basis of the program.

Judge Alsup also cited several of Trump’s Twitter posts that expressed support for the program, according to the Times.

He noted that, in September, the president wrote: “Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military? Really!”

Such tweets, Alsup said, bolstered the idea that keeping the program going was in the public interest.

The judge wrote that previous beneficiaries of DACA, known as Dreamers, must be allowed to renew their status in the program, though the government will not be required to accept new applications from immigrants who had not previously submitted one.

In addition, Alsup said the Trump administration could continue to prevent DACA recipients from returning to the U.S. if they leave the country.

Devin O’Malley, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice, said that the ruling did not change the department’s position.

“DACA was implemented unilaterally after Congress declined to extend these benefits to this same group of illegal aliens,” he said. “As such, it was an unlawful circumvention of Congress, and was susceptible to the same legal challenges that effectively ended DACA.

“The Department of Homeland Security, therefore, acted within its lawful authority in deciding to wind down DACA in an orderly manner,” he added. “Promoting and enforcing the rule of law is vital to protecting a nation, its borders, and its citizens.”

The Trump administration could quickly appeal the judge’s ruling, hoping that an appeals court would prevent the injunction from taking effect and allowing the shutdown of the DACA program, as the president announced in September.

But such a ruling could itself be appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, potentially tying the fate of the DACA program in court action for days, weeks or longer, the Times warned.

Either way, it said, the ruling could have serious political effect.

If the court’s order to restart the DACA program stands, that could take pressure off Republicans and Democrats to find a political solution for the young immigrants who could be deported if the program ends, the Times said.

Earlier on Tuesday, Trump appeared open to negotiating a sweeping immigration deal that would eventually grant millions of undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship, declaring that he was willing to “take the heat” politically for an approach that seemed to flatly contradict the anti-immigration stance that charged his political rise.

The president made the remarks during an extended meeting with congressional Republicans and Democrats who are weighing a shorter-term agreement that would extend legal status for undocumented Caribbean and other immigrants brought to the United States as children.

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