A federal judge in Washington, D.C. appointed by former President George W. Bush has ordered the Trump administration to fully reinstate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, including accepting new applications if the ruling stands.
However, U.S. District Judge John Bates, who announced the decision on Friday, said he would stay the ruling until Aug. 23 to allow the government to appeal.
Bates already had ruled in April that the Trump administration should continue DACA, but he stayed that ruling for 90 days to allow the government to provide legal arguments justifying why it believes DACA is unlawful and unconstitutional. Those 90 days have now expired.
The Department of Homeland Security decided in September 2017 to rescind DACA, a move announced at the time by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who falsely claimed that the Obama administration policy had created a surge of migrant minors to the country’s southern border.
In his ruling, Bates criticized the government’s follow-up, particularly a memorandum submitted by Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen that argued the administration’s DACA rescission was lawful and not subject to judicial review.
The ruling states:
Although the Nielsen Memo purports to offer further explanation for DHS’s decision to rescind DACA, it fails to elaborate meaningfully on the agency’s primary rationale for its decision: the judgment that the policy was unlawful and unconstitutional. And while the memo offers several additional “policy” grounds for DACA’s rescission, most of these simply repackage legal arguments previously made, and hence are “insufficiently independent from the agency’s evaluation of DACA’s legality” to preclude judicial review or to support the agency’s decision.
Bates went on to tear apart the government’s legal strategy:
By choosing to stand by its September 2017 rescission decision, DHS has placed itself in a dilemma. On the one hand, it cannot rely on the reasons it previously gave for DACA’s rescission, because the Court has already rejected them. On the other, because “an agency’s action must be upheld, if at all, on the basis articulated by the agency itself… DHS also cannot rely on new reasons that it now articulates for the first time. The government’s attempt to thread this needle fails.
In a Los Angeles Times op-ed following the Trump administration’s latest loss in the courts, editorial writer Scott Martelle noted that if the decision stands, it “would be a significant victory for the rule of law, a ‘yuge’ loss for Trump…and a victory for the 700,000 or so people who currently are enrolled in DACA.”
But as CNN points out, DACA’s legal fate isn’t out of the woods yet. In a separate hearing next week, a federal judge is expected to rule in a case brought by Texas and other states that sued to end DACA. According to CNN, the judge in that case is expected to rule in favor of the plaintiffs, based on his track record.
In a statement following Bates’ ruling, a Justice Department spokesman remained defiant. “The Justice Department will continue to vigorously defend this position, and looks forward to vindicating its position in further litigation,” Justice Department spokesman Devin O’Malley said.