Federal judge defends DACA

John Bates, judge in the federal district court of the District of Columbia, and a Republican appointee, struck down on April 24 the administration’s rescission of the DACA program. He gave the administration 90 days to come up with a better justification for ending DACA. If it fails to do so, Bates will order the government to open up DACA for any new applicant as well as protect those already awarded DACA status.

As noted by the Washington Post, The program has transformed the lives of hundreds of thousands of immigrants, allowing them to get driver’s licenses, qualify for in-state tuition, buy homes and attend college and graduate school. They must meet educational and residency requirements and cannot have serious criminal records.

From the conclusion of Bates’ opinion:

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. 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. It was also arbitrary and capricious in its own right, and thus likewise cannot support the agency’s action. For these reasons, DACA’s rescission was unlawful and must be set aside.

For the reasons given above, then, the Court will vacate the Department’s September 5, 2017 decision to rescind the DACA program. The Court will stay its order of vacatur for 90 days, however, to afford DHS an opportunity to better explain its view that DACA is unlawful.

Also, in the body of his opinion, Bates wrote:

The Rescission Memo made no mention of the fact that DACA had been in place for five years and had engendered the reliance of hundreds of thousands of beneficiaries, many of whom had structured their education, employment, and other life activities on the assumption that they would be able to renew their DACA benefits. 24 The Supreme Court has set aside changes in agency policy for failure to consider reliance interests that pale in comparison to the ones at stake here. See, e.g., Encino Motorcars, 136 S. Ct. at 2126 (setting aside the Department of Labor’s interpretation of a statutory exemption from the Fair Labor Standards Act’s overtime-pay requirements, in part because the agency had failed to address “decades of industry reliance” on its prior view that the exemption applied to a particular class of employees). Because DHS failed to even acknowledge how heavily DACA beneficiaries had come to rely on the expectation that they would be able to renew their DACA benefits, its barebones legal interpretation was doubly insufficient and cannot support DACA’s rescission.

 

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