A federal judge has given the Trump administration 90 days to come up with a better explanation for their termination of DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program for undocumented immigrants created by then President Barack Obama and cancelled by President Donald Trump. In his ruling, U.S. District Judge John Bates of the District of Columbia called the administration’s decision to end the program “arbitrary,” “capricious,” “virtually unexplained” and “unlawful.”
Denise Gilman, director of the immigration clinic at the University of Texas School of Law, says the ruling suggests that it won’t be easy for the administration to provide an acceptable explanation.
“From the very beginning, the administration has said this is all about the legality of the DACA program,” Gilman says. “And the court suggests that the program probably is in fact legal, so there will be difficulty to demonstrate a different reason based on a suggestion that now the government will seek to remove DACA holders because they are a priority for enforcement, when that has never been the explanation that the government has provided, to the contrary.”
If the administration cannot come up with an explanation that suits the court, then the DACA program will be reinstated in full.
“Which will mean,” Gilman says, “that not only those who previously had DACA can renew their DACA, but also new applicants who, since the administration’s announcement at the end of the program last fall, have not been able to enter the program, would now be able to apply and be considered for DACA.”
There are other legal challenges that would allow current DACA recipients to renew their status, but this one is different because it could allow new applicants, too.
“It doesn’t expand DACA itself,” she says. “It just returns to DACA as it was originally promulgated.”
When President Trump announced that he was ending the program last September, he gave lawmakers six months to come up with a legislative replacement.
“There is still great need for that to happen,” Gilman says. “What is likely to happen going forward, if Congress continues to refuse to act, is that the DACA program as it was, as a presidential executive program, will continue under these various rulings from the courts.”
Written by Jen Rice.