The Trump administration’s attempt to dismantle the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals was met with another judicial blow Tuesday.
U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis of the Eastern District of New York issued his own nationwide stay to the attempt last September to wind down the program aimed at protecting immigrants that arrived as youth. The decision adds a second layer of judicial impediment to efforts by the administration to bring those same protections to a halt.
The decision adds little new relief for defendants or similarly situated young immigrants who face uncertainty about previous protections. The order does, however, add another federal judge’s decision into the mix ahead of the U.S. Supreme Court’s review of whether to take up review of a previous injunction issued out of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California late last year.
The order also represents a win for immigrant rights organizations and the states involved in the suit. In a statement, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who is part of a 17-state coalition suing over the DACA recision that was part of Tuesday’s injunction order, called the order a victory for the 42,000 DACA recipients in New York and the hundreds of thousands nationwide.
“We are pleased the Court ordered the Department of Homeland Security to restore DACA under the same conditions set forth by a federal court in California,” Schneiderman said. “We are also pleased that the Court made clear that United States Attorney General Sessions was wrong when he claimed DACA was illegal and that the DOJ was wrong to claim that any court has deemed DACA unconstitutional.”
In his order, Garaufis acknowledged the Trump administration absolutely has a right to change immigration policies as it sees fit. In agreeing to the injunction, he noted that the issue was the way it appears to have been done.
“The question before the court is thus not whether defendants could end the DACA program, but whether they offered legally adequate reasons for doing so. Based on its review of the record before it, the court concludes that defendants have not done so,” he wrote.
At issue were the reasons the Trump administration has provided for needing to drop the program, according to Garaufis, both of which were erroneous.
First, the administration has argued on a legal basis that DACA was unconstitutional and violated both the Administrative Procedure Act and the Immigration and Nationality Act. Second, this “erroneous conclusion” relied on the findings in the courts that DACA’s sister program, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, was legally unsustainable.
That the program that was claimed to be illegal was allowed to wind down appeared to contradict the idea that it was, in fact, illegal. “Any of these flaws would support invalidating the DACA rescission as arbitrary and capricious,” Garaufis said.
U.S. Department of Justice attorneys have attempted to argue in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York about an ongoing “litigation risk” as justification for the government’s decision. The record doesn’t support this argument, Garaufis found, and would be likewise arbitrary and capricious “ in light of defendants’ failure to explain their decision or to consider any factors that might have weighed against ending the DACA program.”
Yet Garaufis’ decision failed to achieve one of the big goals of the plaintiffs: forcing the Trump administration to process new applications for those who would have become eligible since the Sept. 5 recision memo was announced. Despite acknowledging the court’s own sympathies towards those who were unable to apply for the program before then, “it cannot say that plaintiffs have demonstrated either that these individuals would be irreparably harmed without injunctive relief or that the balance of equities favors these individuals to the same extent it favors existing DACA beneficiaries.”
Garaufis’ order, then, overlaps with that of U.S. District Judge William Alsup of the Northern District of California. The program will remain as it was on Sept. 4 of last year across the country.
The Supreme Court is scheduled to conference later this week on the Trump administration’s request that it be allowed to bypass the appellate circuit and have the nation’s highest court take up its argument against Alsup’s injunction.
In a statement, DOJ spokesman Devin O’Malley argued that the department’s positions remained unaffected by Garaufis’ order Tuesday.
“Today’s order doesn’t change the Department of Justice’s position on the facts: DACA was implemented unilaterally after Congress declined to extend these benefits to this same group of illegal aliens. As such, it was an unlawful circumvention of Congress, and was susceptible to the same legal challenges that effectively ended DAPA,” O’Malley said. “The Department of Homeland Security therefore acted within its lawful authority in deciding to wind down DACA in an orderly manner. Promoting and enforcing the rule of law is vital to protecting a nation, its borders and its citizens.”