A federal appeals court on Friday ruled against the Trump administration’s decision to end the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, finding the move was arbitrary and capricious.
A divided panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit said that the Department of Homeland Security’s move violated the Administrative Procedure Act because it did not offer a sufficient explanation for winding down DACA, which deferred deportation for certain noncitizens who came to the U.S. as children.
The Richmond, Virginia-based Fourth Circuit is only one of a few appeals courts to consider the Trump administration’s decision to rescind DACA. A three-judge panel for the Ninth Circuit in November upheld an injunction that blocked the rescission from taking effect.
The D.C. and Second circuits have heard arguments but have not yet ruled.
Friday’s decision reverses Judge Roger Titus in the District of Maryland, who ruled last year the rescission was lawful under the Administrative Procedure Act. The split panel also vacated an injunction Titus placed last year, blocking the government from using any information that was provided by DACA applicants against them for enforcement purposes.
Judge Albert Diaz wrote the majority opinion, with Judge Robert King joining. Diaz was appointed to the court by President Barack Obama, and King is a Bill Clinton appointee.
Judge Jay Richardson, who was appointed to the court by President Donald Trump, wrote an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part with the majority.
Richardson disagreed with the majority’s finding that courts can review the agency’s move under the APA. He said enforcement discretion was “at the heart of executive power” and that the executive branch can decide whether to prosecute individuals as long as its reasons are constitutionally sound and do not violate or abdicate its statutory duties.
“We in the Judicial Branch have a narrowly circumscribed role,” Richardson wrote. “It is not our place to second-guess the wisdom of the discretionary decisions made by the other Branches. The rescission of DACA was a controversial and contentious decision, but one that was committed to the Executive Branch.”
He said the government’s DACA rescission did not violate the Constitution’s due process and equal protection guarantees. Richardson agreed with the majority on equitable estoppel, calling the plaintiffs’ claim against the government “baseless.”
The immigration advocacy organization CASA de Maryland first brought the lawsuit challenging the DACA rescission in October 2017. Gustavo Torres, the executive director of CASA de Maryland, said the ruling was “an important victory” for its members and DACA recipients. “We recognize the struggle is not over and there are more battles to fight in the Supreme Court on this road to Justice,” he said, adding that he was certain they are “on the right side of history.”
Read the decision: