It was the third, and sharpest, judicial rebuke of the president, who frequently used DACA’s extension as a carrot and its suspension as a stick in negotiations with Democrats on budget and other issues.
Judge John Bates said the government’s suspension of the program was “… arbitrary and capricious … ” and “… failed adequately to explain its conclusion that the program was unlawful.” He went on to say the government’s “… meager legal reasoning …” was “… [not] sufficient to sustain termination of the DACA program.”
In New Jersey, the pro-immigrant rights governor reiterated his support for DACA recipients during his speech in New Brunswick.
“We are standing for the rights of our Dreamers to continue to live, learn and work in the only home that many of them have ever known,” Gov. Phil Murphy said to applause.
The ruling affects more than 22,000 recipients in New Jersey. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program goes back to 2012. It allows recipients, generally children brought to the U.S. by unauthorized immigrants, to stay here indefinitely without fear of deportation, providing educational and economic opportunities unavailable to their parents, but not a path to citizenship. In New Jersey, advocates are pushing for recipients to get in-state tuition and access to driver’s licenses.
Giancarlo Tello, a former DACA recipient now on a conditional green card after marrying an American citizen, says the ruling is a hopeful green light.
“Temporarily, yes,” he said. “It definitely opens a pathway for a lot of folks who would have qualified before until the Trump administration tried to end the program, so right now there’s hope. Our advice to families that might be eligible for it now is to start collecting your documents, start raising the money that you need to because it’s still expensive, and wait for this 90-day period to see when the protocols will actually be in place to apply.”
The ruling gives the administration 90 days to explain its logic. If it can’t, the judge will reverse the government’s order and require it to enroll new applicants.
A justice department statement says the order doesn’t change its position on the facts and that it “… will continue to vigorously defend this position.”
Of course, Congress could render this all moot by coming to a compromise on a DACA extension, but despite some close calls over the past year, it seems unlikely that they’ll be able to do anything before the midterm elections.