DACA Restored by Judge’s Order, Reopening Dreamers Program

The Trump Administration must fully restore the so-called Dreamers program that protects undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, a federal judge ruled Friday, opening the door to new applicants for the first time since 2017.

U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis directed the Department of Homeland Security to post a public notice by Monday that it will accept petitions from new applicants for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

While President Donald Trump has repeatedly promised to protect the so-called Dreamers, he hasn’t taken any action to do so, but has pushed to end the program that was put in place by President Barack Obama in 2012. In June, the Supreme Court blocked the administration from ending the initiative.

But the following month, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf sought to curtail DACA by cutting off new applicants and shortening the period of work permits and protections from two years to one.

Garaufis discussed the long history of the litigation over DACA at a hearing in August, saying, “this has remained unresolved and 700,000 plus people are directly affected.”

Last month, the judge ruled that Wolf wasn’t acting within his lawful authority when he closed DACA to new applicants because his appointment violated the Homeland Security Act of 2002. The judge also said that Wolf’s partial reinstatement of DACA was invalid because it had been issued in the form of a memo from Wolf.

In his ruling Friday, Garaufis said that Trump officials tried to circumvent his November court order.

”Just hours after the court issued its opinion on Nov. 14, Mr. Wolf once again attempted to ratify his prior actions as Acting Secretary on November 16,” Garaufis said Friday. “Of course, for the exact same reasons, those documents have no legal significance,” the judge said.

He said the officials don’t “currently possess, nor have they ever possessed the powers” to end the program.

A spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security didn’t immediately return voicemail and emails seeking comment about the judge’s order.

Garaufis also ordered the government to produce a status report on the DACA program to him by Jan. 4, and said it must include the number of first-time DACA applications it’s received, adjudicated, approved, denied and rejected from Nov. 14 to Dec. 31 of this year.

The National Immigration Forum estimates that there are as many as 3.6 million Dreamers living in the U.S., many of whom didn’t apply for DACA or aged out of the program after it stopped accepting new applicants in 2017.

There are more than 642,500 current DACA recipients, according to March 2020 data from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Immigrants rights groups say that in 2018 and 2019, only 26,173 DACA applicants were approved.

The cases are Vidal v. Wolf, 16-cv-4756 and State of New York v. Trump, 17-cv-5228, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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