Judge Orders Government to Fully Reinstate DACA Program
Up to 300,000 additional undocumented immigrants could be allowed to apply for protection from deportation under a new court ruling. President Trump had sought to cancel the program.
A federal judge on Friday ordered the Trump administration to fully restore an Obama-era program designed to shield young, undocumented immigrants from deportation, dealing what could be a final blow to President Trump’s long-fought effort to end the protections.
The program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, was created by President Barack Obama in 2012. Over the years, it has protected more than 800,000 individuals, known as “dreamers,” who met a series of strict requirements for eligibility.
But those protections have been under legal and political siege from Republicans for years, leaving the immigrants who were enrolled in DACA uncertain whether the threat of deportation from the United States could quickly return with a single court order or presidential memorandum.
Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis of the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn directed the administration on Friday to allow newly eligible immigrants to file new applications for protection under the program, reversing a memorandum issued in the summer by Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of Homeland Security, which restricted the program to people who were already enrolled. As many as 300,000 new applicants could now be eligible, according to the lawyers who pushed for the reinstatement.
The memo from the Department of Homeland Security also limited benefits under the program, including permits to work, to one year, but the judge ordered the government to restore them to a full two years. Judge Garaufis, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton, also said the government must find a way to contact all immigrants who are eligible for the program to inform them of the change.
The judge said the government must announce the changes to the program on its website by Monday.
Lawyers who had challenged the Trump administration in the case celebrated the decision, saying that amid a pandemic and global economic recession, it granted some stability to a vulnerable group.
“This is a really big day for DACA recipients and immigrant young people,” said Karen Tumlin, director of the Justice Action Center, who litigated the class-action case. “It’s a day that many of them have been waiting for for over three years.” She said it could open the door for hundreds of thousands of immigrant youths “who have been unfairly denied their chance” under the DACA program.
The program still faces other challenges, including a case in federal court in Texas, where Republican attorneys general have asked a judge to declare it unlawful. And Mr. Trump’s administration could appeal the ruling by Judge Garaufis in the days ahead.
Immigration advocates said they hoped the administration would not continue its legal fight to end the program given the arrival of a new, Democratic administration in less than two months.
President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. has vowed to restore the DACA program when he takes office, but a legislative solution that would permanently allow the dreamers to live and work legally in the United States remains elusive, leaving their fates to the shifting political winds in Washington.