Donald Trump’s plan to kill off DACA just hit another snag.
In a 60-page decision handed down on Tuesday night, Judge John Bates of the District Court for the District of Columbia said that the government’s decision to end DACA was “arbitrary and capricious because the Department failed adequately to explain its conclusion that the program was unlawful.”
“The Department’s decision to rescind DACA was predicated primarily on its legal judgment that the program was unlawful. That legal judgment was virtually unexplained, however, and so it cannot support the agency’s decision,” Bates wrote in his decision. “And although the government suggests that DACA’s rescission was also predicated on the Department’s assessment of litigation risk, this consideration is insufficiently distinct from the agency’s legal judgment to alter the reviewability analysis.”
Because of this, Bates—who was appointed by George W. Bush in 2001—vacated the decision to end DACA, and ordered that the Department of Homeland Security “must accept and process new as well as renewal DACA applications.”
Bates also granted the federal government a stay of 90 days to give them time to issue another memorandum rescinding DACA, this time with a better explanation of why it ended the program. As the National Immigration Law Center pointed out, this means that US Citizenship and Immigration Services isn’t accepting new applicants yet.
If the government doesn’t give a better explanation of why it ended DACA, however, Bates wrote that he would restore the DACA program in full.
Bates’ order is the third ruling against the administration on DACA, but its strongest yet. In January, a California judge blocked Trump’s order, as did a second judge in New York the following month. Neither of those two decisions, however, required that the administration start accepting new applications. In February, the Supreme Court declined to hear the administration’s appeal of the California ruling.
“This decision verifies the Trump administration failed to prove the DACA program is illegal,” National Immigration Forum executive director Ali Noorani told the New York Times after the ruling was handed down. “Either President Trump finds another way to end the program, tossing hundreds of thousands of young people into deportation proceedings, or he works with Republicans and Democrats to find a legislative solution that secures our border and ensures Dreamers continue contributing to our economy.”