Federal judge rules DACA must stay in place

Ruling allows current DACA recipients to renew their enrollment

AMID the intense fight over the protections of DREAMers, a federal judge issued a nationwide directive late Tuesday night, January, 9, ordering the Trump administration to restore the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

United States District Judge William Alsup of San Francisco, likely halting the fierce debate since DACA was terminated by President Donald Trump on September 5, 2017, challenged the administration’s stance that DACA was illegally implemented.

In 2012, former President Barack Obama signed an executive order instituting DACA, which has provided work authorization, protection from deportation and other benefits to undocumented youth who came to the U.S. illegally as children.

Calling the rescission of DACA “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion and otherwise not in accordance with the law,” Alsup noted that the sudden termination of the program “deprived DACA recipients of constitutionally-protected property and liberty interests without due process of law.”

The breakthrough ruling comes after major moves have been made on Capitol Hill on Sunday, January 7, where a bipartisan pair of Congress members unveiled a bill that would provide a legislative solution for DACA — the program was temporary and only valid for two years with an option to renew.

The bill introduced by Reps. Will Hurd (R-Texas) and Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) would offer eligible DREAMers the ability to apply for a green card and — after years of conditional residency — a pathway to citizenship, given they meet the requirements, including a background check and proof of work, education and/or military service.

On Tuesday, Trump pledged his support for a “clean DACA bill” provided it included strengthening the U.S.-Mexico border — in other words, his controversial, long-awaited border wall.

“You folks are going to have to come up with a solution,” Trump told 25 lawmakers in a negotiation at the White House on Tuesday. “A clean DACA bill to me is to take care of the 800,000 people. We take care of that, and we also take care of security. And then we can go to comprehensive [immigration reform] later on.”

At a meeting at Camp David on Saturday, January 6, Trump said, “We all want DACA to happen, but we also want great security for our country.”

Alsup’s ruling was welcomed as a triumph for DACA advocates who condemned the president’s termination of the program, including many Democratic lawmakers.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) said that the ruling was “further evidence that the Trump Administration’s decision to pull the rug out from under these young people by ending DACA was not only immoral, but illegal.”

U.S. Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.), a longtime immigrant rights advocate, praised the federal court’s ruling but urged the passage of the Dream Act, which would provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented youth.

“A California judge rightfully recognized that Trump was ‘arbitrary’ and ‘capricious’ in terminating DACA. There was no reason for Trump to end the program other than to sow mayhem in immigrant communities across the country,” Gomez said in a statement released on Wednesday, January 10. “But this ruling does not provide DREAMers with the certainty they need. DREAMers deserve peace of mind, not the sickening instability that Trump has purposely inflicted. With Trump already hinting at an appeal, we need to keep the pressure up — and pass the Dream Act now.”

Current DACA recipients will be able to renew enrollment

When the Trump administration announced it was terminating DACA, it noted that it was no longer accepting new applications as of September 5, 2017, and recipients whose permits expired after March 5, 2018, were not permitted to apply for renewal.

Moreover, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had set a deadline, October 5, 2017, for anyone whose work permit was going to expire after March 5 — due to U.S. Postal Service delays, roughly 22,000 DACA recipients missed this deadline, which the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services deemed “narrow.”

Though the ruling doesn’t allow people who applied for DACA before the administration stopped accepting applications on September 5, current DACA recipients are able to renew their enrollment.

However, the government could still prevent DACA recipients from returning to the U.S. if they leave the country.

It remains to be seen how this affects legislation, but Alsup’s order puts a strain on the Trump administration, which is likely headed for a major legal battle, not unlike the intense back and forth between the courts and the Trump administration regarding the travel bans last year.

Economic impact of DACA

In five years, the program has more than 800,000 enrollees, many of whom reported back greater career and education opportunities that were otherwise inaccessible.

The termination of DACA in September orchestrated an outcry from immigrant rights activists as well as economic experts who emphasized the program’s positive economic impact, and the newfound permittance to work has opened up economic opportunities for the country as well as the beneficiaries and their families.

An August 2017 study by the Center for American Progress (CAP) found that 91.4 percent of DACA recipients were currently employed whereas, before DACA, 56 percent were not able to work.

“So when I think about the data and what it all points to, it makes clear that DACA works, that DACA not only improves the lives of individual recipients and their families, but positively affects the American economy and society,” Tom Wong, associate professor of political science at UC San Diego, said in a press call on Thursday, September 7.

The libertarian-leaning Cato Institution reported in January 2017 that terminating DACA — which would mean deporting those enrolled — would cost the federal government $60 billion and diminish economic growth by $280 billion over the next 10 years.

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