The Slatest

Federal Judge Rules Trump Administration Must Accept New DACA Applications

DACA supporters marching at the U.S. Capitol.
DACA supporters march at the U.S. Capitol on March 5.
Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

A federal judge in Washington has issued the most resounding rejection yet of the Trump administration’s justification for dismantling the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, ruling on Tuesday not only that the administration must continue to allow Dreamers to apply for renewal but that it must also accept new applications.

It is the third ruling against the administration by a federal judge since the administration rescinded DACA starting in March—judges in California and New York have previously ruled that the Department of Homeland Security must process renewal applications, which is what DHS is doing now—and it would essentially restore the DACA program to its pre-Trump days. However, the judge, U.S. District Judge John D. Bates, a George W. Bush appointee, placed a 90-day stay on his ruling to allow DHS to submit a more adequate justification for its decision to end the program.

The decision, the judge ruled, was “virtually unexplained,” as well as “arbitrary and capricious.” As a result, it was “unlawful.”

According to the Washington Post, the Trump administration argued that because Texas and other states threatened to sue over DACA, and because the Trump administration believed that the program would not survive a court challenge, it decided to end the program. The threat of a lawsuit, Bates ruled, was not a sufficient justification.

Donald Trump, echoing arguments long made by conservative opponents to the program, had consistently argued that President Barack Obama had overstepped his constitutional authority in creating the program. When the administration announced it was ending the program, Trump urged Congress to find a solution and at times used DACA for leverage in negotiations over the budget, with an aim to secure funding for a border wall. Congress failed to reach an agreement that would protect the Dreamers. Trump seemed to pull back his support for the young immigrants.

Tuesday’s case was brought by the NAACP, Microsoft, and Princeton University. In a statement in response, the Justice Department said that the Trump administration was reviewing the decision and that ending DACA was simply intended to protect the border and enforce the law. “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,” spokesman Devin O’Malley said in a statement. “The Justice Department will continue to vigorously defend this position.”

Around 700,000 dreamers—undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country as children, before age 16—are currently protected by DACA. If the Trump administration fails to submit a more satisfying reason for the program’s termination, thousands more could apply.