Judge Orders Government to Fully Reinstate DACA Program

Up to 300,000 additional undocumented immigrants could be allowed to apply for protection from deportation under a new court ruling. President Trump had sought to cancel the program.

A demonstration in San Diego this year in support of participants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Credit…Sandy Huffaker/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

By Caitlin Dickerson and Michael D. Shear
Dec. 4, 2020

A federal judge on Friday ordered the Trump administration to fully restore an Obama-era program designed to shield young, undocumented immigrants from deportation, dealing what could be a final blow to President Trump’s long-fought effort to end the protections.

The program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, was created by President Barack Obama in 2012. Over the years, it has protected more than 800,000 individuals, known as “dreamers,” who met a series of strict requirements for eligibility.

Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis of the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn directed the administration to allow newly eligible immigrants to file new applications for protection under the program, reversing a memorandum issued in the summer by Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of Homeland Security, which restricted the program to people who were already enrolled. As many as 300,000 new applicants could now be eligible, according to the lawyers who pushed for the reinstatement.

The memo from the Department of Homeland Security also limited benefits under the program, including permits to work, to one year, but the judge on Friday ordered the government to restore them to a full two years. Judge Garaufis, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton, also said the government must find a way to contact all immigrants who are eligible for the program to inform them of the change.

The program still faces other challenges, including a case in federal court in Texas, where Republican attorneys general have asked a judge to declare the program unlawful.

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. has vowed to restore the DACA program when he takes office next month, but a legislative solution that would permanently allow the dreamers to live and work legally in the United States remains elusive, leaving their fates to the shifting political winds.

Still, the ruling is a significant legal setback to Mr. Trump’s yearslong attempt to make good on his promise to terminate the program, which applies to undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as young children and have lived in America most of their lives.

As a candidate, Mr. Trump insisted that the program, which Mr. Obama put in place through executive action, was unconstitutional, and as president he moved to end it in September 2017. The legal battle over the program culminated in a Supreme Court ruling this summer in which the justices said the president had not followed the proper procedures to end the program.

In the wake of that ruling, Mr. Wolf only partially reinstated the program, refusing to allow new immigrants to apply and slashing the length of renewals to one year, instead of the two years previously allowed under the program.

In November, Judge Garaufis determined that the partial reinstatement was invalid because it had been issued in the form of a memo by Mr. Wolf, who Judge Garaufis found had been unlawfully appointed to his position. On Friday, after hearing from both sides, the judge said the agency must announce the news of the full reinstatement on its website by Monday.

“This is a really big day for DACA recipients and immigrant young people,” said Karen Tumlin, director of the Justice Action Center, who litigated the class-action case. “It opens the door for more than a million immigrant youth who have been unfairly denied their chance to apply for DACA.”

The Trump administration did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Adam Liptak contributed reporting.

Caitlin Dickerson is a Peabody Award-winning reporter based in New York who covers immigration. She has broken stories on asylum, detention and deportation policy, as well as the treatment of immigrant children in government custody. @itscaitlinhd

Michael D. Shear is a White House correspondent. He previously worked at The Washington Post and was a member of their Pulitzer Prize-winning team that covered the Virginia Tech shootings in 2007. @shearm

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