By Nicholas Iovino, Courthouse News
A federal judge Tuesday restored a program that shields more than 700,000 young immigrants from deportation, finding the Trump administration relied on a “flawed legal premise” to rescind the DACA program last year.
U.S. District Judge William Alsup found “litigation risk” was not proper justification for ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program because the Trump administration never considered defending the program against a potential legal challenge from Texas and nine other states.
“Nowhere in the administrative record did the Attorney General or the agency consider whether defending the program in court would (or would not) be worth the litigation risk,” Alsup wrote in the 49-page ruling.
He concluded that without a nationwide injunction, DACA recipients would likely suffer irreparable harm, leading to harmful ripple effects on the nation’s economy and healthcare system.
“This would tear authorized workers from our nation’s economy and would prejudice their being able to support themselves and their families, not to mention paying taxes to support our nation,” Alsup wrote. Loss of jobs and health insurance would further strain the country’s emergency healthcare services.
Alsup’s order is separate from the cases of more than 200,000 Salvadorans, Hondurans and Nicaraguans whose temporary protected status from deportation Trump has rescinded. Those Central Americans, and about 192,000 of their U.S. citizen children, have been protected for some 17 years, due to natural disasters and violent unrest in their countries. Trump and Attorney General Sessions have ordered them to leave the country by September 2019 — forcing them into difficult decisions about whether to abandon their children.
The DACA recipients, or Dreamers, were brought to the United States as children, usually with their parents. To qualify for DACA, they must have clean records during their years in the United States, and meet other requirements.
Without an injunction, about 1,000 Dreamers will lose their work authorizations and protection from deportation each day starting March 5.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra called the ruling “a huge step in the right direction,” Tuesday night. “America is and has been home to Dreamers who courageously came forward, applied for DACA and did everything the federal government asked of them.”
California is one of four states that challenged the decision to end DACA. Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, the University of California System, the city of San Jose, Santa Clara County, Service Employees International Union Local 521, and individual Dreamers also sued to stop the DACA rollback.
Alsup’s ruling was issued late Tuesday, hours after President Donald Trump voiced support for bipartisan legislation to restore DACA protections and strengthen border security at a meeting with congressional leaders in Washington.
In his ruling, Alsup noted the “unusual position” in which Trump has publicly expressed support for the program his administration terminated.
Trump tweeted in September last year: “Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military? Really! …”
Alsup said the plaintiffs are entitled to obtain more evidence that could support their claims that the DACA rescission was “contrived to give the administration a bargaining chip to demand funding for a border wall in exchange for reviving DACA.”
Alsup ordered the Department of Homeland Security to start processing DACA renewal applications under the same terms and conditions as before the program was rescinded on Sept. 5, 2017.
“Nothing in this order prohibits the agency from proceeding to remove any individual, including any DACA enrollee, who it determines poses a risk to national security or public safety, or otherwise deserves, in its judgment, to be removed,” Alsup wrote.
The federal government is not obligated to process new applications for those not previously enrolled in DACA, nor is it obligated to grant DACA recipients advanced parole, which allows immigrants to re-enter the U.S. after traveling abroad.
The DACA program was started in 2012 under President Barack Obama, providing work permits and protection from deportation to those who came to the United States before the age of 16.
The Department of Justice did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment Tuesday night.