The Slatest

Sessions Says DOJ Will Fight Order to Restart DACA by Judge Who Called White House’s Rationale “Illogical”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks at podium in front of the Department of Justice seal.
Angry Sessions.
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Attorney General Jeff Sessions hit back at a federal judge’s decision ordering the Trump administration reinstate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. D.C.-based U.S. District Judge John Bates ruled Friday that the government must restart the program aimed at providing deportation protection for undocumented immigrants that were brought to the U.S. as small children, known as Dreamers, by Aug. 23. Sessions responded to the decision Monday, declaring the court ruling “improper” and one of a “number of decisions in which courts have improperly used judicial power to steer, enjoin, modify, and direct executive policy.”

Bates’ decision comes after the Trump administration decided to wind down the Obama-era program in September 2017, but after multiple legal challenges, the court ruled in April that the Trump administration’s decision to rescind DACA was unlawful, largely because it was considered arbitrary. Bates, a George W. Bush nominee, gave the Trump administration 90 days to “remedy the decision’s inadequacies,” but a memo from Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen failed to convince the judge. “Although the Nielsen Memo purports to offer further explanation for DHS’s decision to rescind DACA, it fails to elaborate meaningfully on the agency’s primary rationale for its decision: the judgment that the policy was unlawful and unconstitutional,” Bates wrote in his decision Friday. “And while the memo offers several additional ‘policy’ grounds for DACA’s rescission, most of these simply repackage legal arguments previously made, and hence are ‘insufficiently independent from the agency’s evaluation of DACA’s legality’ to preclude judicial review or to support the agency’s decision.”

“The last administration violated its duty to enforce our immigration laws by directing and implementing a categorical, multipronged non-enforcement immigration policy for a massive group of illegal aliens,” Sessions said Monday, adding the White House had “simply reestablished the legal policies consistent with the law.” Bates has not ruled out that the administration could plausibly end DACA legally but that it had to provide a “rational explanation for its decision” to do so. The Trump administration’s approach to ending the program “simply will not do,” Bates wrote, because it is based on a “conclusory assertion that a prior policy is illegal, accompanied by a hodgepodge of illogical or post hoc policy assertions.”

“The executive branch’s authority to simply rescind a policy, established only by a letter from the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, is clearly established,” Sessions said. “The Department of Justice will take every lawful measure to vindicate the Department of Homeland Security’s lawful rescission of DACA.”