Activist Federal Judge Eager To Save DACA From The Bench

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Will Racke Immigration and Foreign Policy Reporter
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As the White House and Congress stumble through fitful negotiations over a legislative replacement for the now-cancelled Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, a federal judge in New York has signaled he is willing to impose a solution from the bench.

Brooklyn-based U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis is presiding over two related lawsuits challenging President Donald Trump’s order to rescind DACA. The plaintiffs claim Trump exceeded his authority with an “arbitrary” decision motivated by “animus” toward Hispanic immigrants.

In several recent instances, Garaufis has made remarks that suggest he is inclined to agree.

He has called the Trump administration’s DACA cancellation “cruel” and “unacceptable,” reports the New York Times. When a Department of Justice attorney informed the court there would be no extension of the Oct. 5 deadline to renew DACA status, Garaufis lit into the government lawyer, saying he’d “never seen a circumstance like this” and calling the administration “heartless” for not giving recipients more time to submit renewal applications.

“You can’t come into court and espouse a position that’s heartless,” Garaufis told Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brett Shumate, in an emotional rebuke of the administration’s decision.

A Democrat appointed to the federal bench by Bill Clinton in 2000, Garaufis has a history of less-than-impartial conduct in court. In a 2010 ruling, he ordered the New York Fire Department to hire hundreds of black and Hispanic applicants who had been denied jobs after failing allegedly discriminatory entrance exams.

A federal appeals court later ruled that Garaufis had gone too far, and removed him from the case after city lawyers argued he had “lost any semblance of neutrality” in evaluating evidence presented by the city. Second Circuit Judge Jon Newman wrote that “an objective observer would have a reasonable basis to question the judge’s impartiality in assessing that evidence at trial.”

The Second Circuit’s ruling noted Garaufis’ unusually ideological criticism of the city and the fire department, which he had called a “stubborn bastion of white male privilege.”

In the DACA case, Garafuis appears to have similarly dropped the pretense of neutrality. He has praised DACA recipients as taxpayers who “support their communities” while declaring Trump’s order to be morally suspect.

“It’s unacceptable to me as a human being and as a person,” Garaufis said in court. “I’m glad I was born in Paterson, New Jersey and not Mexico City.”

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