A third federal judge ruled on Tuesday against the Trump administration’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
In September, President Donald Trump canceled the Obama-era DACA program, which shields undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as youths from deportation. But in a stinging rebuke of the Trump administration’s legal logic, U.S. District Judge John Bates described the program’s cancellation as “arbitrary and capricious because the Department [of Homeland Security] failed adequately to explain its conclusion that the program was unlawful.”
“Neither the meager legal reasoning nor the assessment of litigation risk provided by DHS to support its rescission decision is sufficient to sustain termination of the DACA program,” Bates wrote in the opinion.
The ruling has no immediate effect, and the decision to cancel DACA has already been stalled by a nationwide injunction. Bates’ ruling is unique, however, because it opens the possibility that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services might have to start accepting new DACA applications. The current injunctions only require the federal government to renew the applications of people who have already been approved for the program.
Bates gave the Department of Homeland Security another 90 days to give a better explanation for canceling the program before moving forward with the decision.
The consolidated lawsuits seeking to overturn the DACA cancellation in the District of Columbia were brought by several parties, including the NAACP, Microsoft, two labor unions, Princeton University and DACA recipient Maria de la Cruz Perales Sanchez.
Tuesday’s ruling adds another layer of complexity to the Trump administration’s efforts to squelch former President Barack Obama’s last standing immigration reform. Other lawsuits are moving through the federal court system in California and New York.
Both suits will likely drag on for months just to get through the discovery period, when lawyers demand to see the evidence that will appear as the case goes to trial. Plaintiffs in the California and New York cases are pressing the Trump administration to cough up more documents to shed light on its reasons for abruptly canceling DACA last fall, despite leaving the program in place for the first nine months after Trump took office.
The Justice Department has argued that many of the documents describing the decision-making process are privileged and not subject to disclosure to the court.