A federal judge in Washington, D.C. has reaffirmed his April order that the Trump administration must continue to accept new and renewal applications under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. However, the ruling has a delayed effective date and does not yet change the current DACA program rules.

U.S. District Judge John D. Bates ruled in April that the administration’s decision to end the DACA program was arbitrary and capricious, but gave the administration 90 days to provide sufficient justification for its decision. After reviewing new explanations provided by the Department of Homeland Security, Bates found no reason to change his original ruling.

Key points:

  • The judge stayed his order for 20 days to allow the government to appeal or request a longer stay pending appeal.
  • He also reiterated his earlier ruling that while the government does not lack the statutory or constitutional power to rescind DACA, “it must give a rational explanation for its decision.”

Background: The Trump administration rescinded the Obama-era DACA program in September 2017 with a delayed effective date of March 5, 2018, stating that the original program was unlawful and unconstitutional. On April 24, Bates ruled in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia that the rescission violated the Administrative Procedure Act. However, he gave the government three months to either issue a new rescission order or provide adequate legal justification for its decision. During that time, DHS issued a memo supporting its original rescission order. On Friday, the judge declined to revise his April order, stating in a 25-page ruling that the DHS memo “fails to elaborate meaningfully on the agency’s primary rationale for its decision” and that most of the memo’s new policy rationales “simply repackage legal arguments previously made.”

Two other federal courts, in California and New York, have also ordered the administration to continue accepting DACA applications, but those decisions applied to DACA renewal applications only.

A court in Texas is scheduled to hear arguments Wednesday in a separate lawsuit filed by several states and led by Texas, which seeks to force the administration to end the DACA program. If the Texas court sides with the states, the administration will likely seek Supreme Court review.

BAL Analysis: The ruling does not have any immediate practical effect, as the judge delayed the decision for 20 days. However, if the government fails to appeal or obtain a longer stay and the ruling takes effect, it would differ from the other court orders in that the government would be required to restore DACA fully—to accept DACA applications not only from existing DACA recipients seeking to renew their benefits, but also from new applicants. BAL will continue to provide updates as these lawsuits continue to progress.

This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice group. For additional information, please contact berryapplemanleiden@bal.com.

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