When President Trump chose to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program last year, his legal team claimed that the administration needed to end the program. It was under threat of legal challenges brought by ten states, they said. A federal judge has just ruled that reasoning was in error.
The DACA program was created in 2012 by an executive order under the Obama Administration. It provides protection from deportation, Social Security numbers and work authorization to some 700,000 qualifying immigrants. To qualify, the immigrants had to be brought to the U.S. as minor children before a specific date, have lived in the U.S. continuously since then, have no criminal record and pose no threat, and participate in education or military service.
Although the program is politically controversial, the judge pointed out that the executive order authorizing DACA was quite ordinary, legally. It was only one in a long series of similar immigration orders dating back to the Eisenhower administration.
Nevertheless, there was a possibility that the state challenges to DACA would succeed. They claimed the Obama administration had skipped important legal steps in creating the policy.
Last year, a number of states said they would drop the lawsuits if the DACA program were ended. Attorney General Jeff Sessions advised the administration that DACA had been created illegally and recommended ending it. It was ended in September.
Then, lawsuits were brought by DACA recipients and other stakeholders who have “invested considerable resources” in assisting DACA recipients with their education and in providing them with employment, among other things. The stakeholders stand to lose their investment and face significant damage if the DACA recipients’ legal protections are removed. The DACA recipients stand to be deported to countries with which they have little or no connection. They stand to lose their basic stability and all that they have worked for.
U.S. District Judge William Alsup found that the decision to end DACA was “based on a flawed legal premise” that the Obama administration had overstepped its authority in creating the program. Therefore, the attorney general was required to at least consider defending DACA from the state challengers. He could not lawfully end the program based on litigation risk alone.
The judge found that no such consideration was made. That means that ending the DACA was arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion. And, since the DACA recipients and other stakeholders face substantial damage if the DACA is withdrawn, it must be continued until a court actually finds it unlawful.