A third federal judge has ruled against President Donald Trump’s decision to wind down an executive amnesty for younger illegal immigrants, saying the administration must restart the program for former recipients and, possibly, new applicants.
U.S. District Court Judge John Bates said Tuesday the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) legal rationale for ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was too shaky.
“DACA’s rescission was arbitrary and capricious because the Department failed adequately to explain its conclusion that the program was unlawful,” Bates, a George W. Bush appointee, wrote in his 60-page opinion. “Neither the meager legal reasoning nor the assessment of litigation risk provided by DHS to support its rescission decision is sufficient to sustain termination of the DACA.”
Like two other district court judges who have already ruled against the Trump administration, Bates ordered immigration authorities to resume accepting renewal applications. His order goes a step further than the others, however, by giving the Department of Homeland Security 90 days to come up with a more convincing justification for ending DACA. If it fails to do so, the government must start processing first-time applications, as well, Bates ruled.
The Trump administration canceled DACA in September based on the opinion of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who said the Obama-era program was unconstitutional. DHS said the program would officially sunset on March 5, but multiple court rulings have forced the agency to continue accepting renewal applications.
Bates is the first Republican appointee to rule against the Trump administration’s move to end DACA. Two district court judges appointed by former President Bill Clinton — one in San Francisco and one in Brooklyn — had already issued injunctions requiring the administration to keep the program going for previous recipients.
Justice Department spokesman Devin O’Malley said in a statement that the Trump administration’s legal position on DACA is solid.
“Today’s order doesn’t change the Department of Justice’s position on the facts: DACA was implemented unilaterally after Congress declined to extend benefits to this same group of illegal aliens. As such, it was an unlawful circumvention of Congress,” he said, according to Politico. “The Department of Homeland Security therefore acted within its lawful authority in deciding to wind down DACA in an orderly manner.”
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