Federal Court Rules to Restore DACA

July 18, 2020 Updated: July 19, 2020

A federal court in Maryland ruled on July 17 that the Trump administration must begin accepting new applications to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which protects immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children from being deported and allows them to work legally.

Describing the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s rescission of DACA in 2017 as “arbitrary and capricious,” the U.S. District Court in Maryland ruled on July 17 (pdf) that the DACA policy must be fully restored. The ruling means that, for the first time in three years, DACA must open up to new applicants.

“From the Supreme Court down, the courts have made it clear: DACA stands, and now its doors are open to new Dreamers to apply,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said. “That’s a fact and that’s what matters.”

The program was put in place via executive order by President Barack Obama, and currently some 649,000 immigrants are enrolled. Obama signed the order in 2012 following failed immigration reform negotiations on Capitol Hill. Many conservatives, including President Donald Trump, have argued that DACA is unconstitutional, although the president has expressed sympathy for the Dreamers’ plight and has indicated openness to a negotiated, bipartisan solution.

The Trump administration ended the program in September 2017, but last month, the Supreme Court blocked the move to rescind DACA on procedural grounds.

“We do not decide whether DACA or its rescission are sound policies. We address only whether the agency complied with the procedural requirement that it provide a reasoned explanation for its action,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in an opinion (pdf), referring to the Department of Homeland Security.

Claiming DACA to be an unlawful and unconstitutional exercise of authority by the executive branch, Trump previously said that the winding down of DACA would be a gradual process, which would provide Congress a “window of opportunity” to act on the issue.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters at a briefing following the Supreme Court decision that the Trump administration will find a “compassionate” way to deal with the Dreamers program, as DACA is also known.

“We’re going to move forward in a responsible way and cure some of the remedies and the unlawfulness that we see with the previous memo that brought DACA into place,” she said. “But we want to find a compassionate way to do this.”

Trump on July 14 said he would soon sign a merit-based immigration act that will also take care of Dreamers.

“We are going to be signing an immigration act very soon. It is going to be based on merit, it is going to be very strong,” Trump said at a White House press conference.

“We are going to work on DACA because we want to make people happy, and I will tell you even conservative Republicans want to see something happen with DACA.”

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