A federal judge dealt the severest blow yet to the Trump administration’s small-minded attempt to deport young adults brought illegally to the United States by their parents.
On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge John D. Bates, of Washington state, ruled that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — DACA — not only must remain in place, but that the administration must also resume accepting new applications. He stayed his decision for 90 days.
It’s the third judicial smackdown to President Trump’s efforts to rescind the program — which President Obama created by executive order in 2012 — and deport those it shields, called DREAMers. One would hope the Trump administration would have gotten the message by now that his efforts are misguided. But don’t bet on it.
In recent months, the DREAMers’ struggle to stay in the United States has been teetering on a precipice. But Tuesday, Bates’ ruling pulled them back from the brink — for a while.
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Bates called the push to rescind DACA “arbitrary and capricious.” He nailed it.
The federal judge noted that the Department of Homeland Security canceled DACA, alleging that the immigration protection program is “illegal,” but said it did so without explaining how it came to that conclusion. Bates gave the department 90 days to better explain its position. DHS will have to work overtime to come up with a persuasive case.
If DHS fails to do so, the judge said, then it “must accept and process new as well as renewal DACA applications.”
Earlier this year, two U.S. judges, one in Brooklyn and another in San Francisco, each issued injunctions ordering that the program remain in place. But neither ordered DHS to accept new applications if the department can’t make its case.
This not only is welcome news for the estimated 690,000 DREAMers. It also injects some needed common-sense into this country’s immigration system, itself too arbitrary and capricious. DACA is recognition that the people it protects did not willfully sneak across the border or overstay a tourist visa on their own.
The program allows immigrants, now young adults and who were brought to the United States illegally when they were children, to receive temporary permits to stay and work. It brought them out of the shadows to attend school, find jobs, even serve in the military without fear of being deported.
But true to his campaign promise to deport illegal immigrants, Trump threw DREAMers into the mix, revoking the program in March. And Congress has been of little help, failing to find a solution to the DREAMer drama, much less tackling broader, more comprehensive immigration reform.
It doesn’t help that Trump has vacillated on the issue, once conveying that he wanted to offer DACA recipients a lifeline, then reversing course — in Easter Sunday comments, no less — that there would be no DACA deal.
Bates is to be commended for restraining a process whose consequences would needlessly upend so many lives. As we have long said, the Trump administration should reconsider its decision to end DACA and take the lead in finding a just and humane solution to the dilemma these young people face. It’s a dilemma not of their own making.