A federal judge has ordered the Trump administration to fully restart the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, the fourth district court ruling against the White House’s efforts to eliminate the program. On Friday, Washington-based district judge John Bates — who was appointed by President George W. Bush — dismissed the Trump administration’s rationale for shutting down DACA as inadequate.
The order doesn’t take effect immediately. Bates gave the administration until August 23 to appeal the ruling or restart the Obama-era program, which protects from deportation more than 700,000 undocumented immigrants who were brought into the U.S. as children. The judge had given the administration 90 days to restart the program back in April, but stayed his own ruling in order to give the administration another chance at presenting a legally sound reason for why DACA is unlawful. It couldn’t.
Bates said on Friday that the Department of Homeland Security was unable to provide “a coherent explanation of its legal opinion” and also failed to alternatively reissue its decision to end DACA for “bona fide policy reasons that would preclude judicial review.” The Trump administration is expected to appeal, though it doesn’t seem to have come up with any new arguments, and the president has additionally and repeatedly failed to demonstrate that he understands much of anything about the program himself. If the administration does not appeal the ruling before the deadline near the end of this month, it’s move to end DACA will be vacated and it will have to begin reaccepting new applications for the program immediately.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced in September that the administration would stop processing applications and renewals for DACA and wind down the program over the course of six months, making the legally thin argument that the federal government was forced to kill the program because (conservative) state attorneys general were planning to sue it. The plan and its shaky rationale has faced significant pushback from U.S. courts, however. The administration was forced to resume processing renewals for existing DACA applicants in January by a federal judge in California, but not new applications for the program. A judge in Brooklyn echoed that ruling a month later.
Bates’s newly reiterated order comes a week before a separate court case — the anti-DACA lawsuit filed by several conservative state attorneys general — will receive a hearing by a judge in Texas who is expected to be sympathetic to their arguments. It’s not clear how that case will ultimately impact DACA, but it seems the Trump administration’s haphazard attempt to end the program on its own is nearing the end of the line.