UNITED STATES – Federal court halts termination of DACA program

Tuesday’s ruling was welcomed by supporters of the DACA program, but the administration is likely to appeal the ruling.

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A federal judge in San Francisco has ordered a temporary halt to the Trump administration’s plan to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Key points:

  • U.S. District Judge William Alsup issued a ruling late Tuesday saying that until legal challenges to the administration’s plan are resolved, the government must “maintain the DACA program on a nationwide basis on the same terms and conditions” as those that were in place before the administration moved on Sept. 5 to end DACA.
  • Alsup said DACA recipients must be allowed to renew their enrollments, but did not require the government to accept new DACA enrollees. The government can also continue to deny entry to the U.S. to DACA recipients who leave the country. The injunction also leaves room for the government to exercise discretion on a case-by-case basis.
  • Alsup did not rule on the merits of the legal challenge, but issued the injunction after concluding that the plaintiffs were likely to prevail on their claim that the decision to rescind DACA was arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion or otherwise not in accordance with law, and that DACA recipients would suffer “serious irreparable harm” if the program were allowed to expire before litigation over the administration’s decision is resolved.
  • A Justice Department spokesman was widely quoted in the press saying that the agency will continue to “vigorously defend” its position that DACA was “was an unlawful circumvention of Congress” and that the government “acted within its lawful authority in deciding to wind down DACA in an orderly manner.”

Background: President Barack Obama established DACA in 2012, moving to allow hundreds of thousands of people who were brought to the United States illegally as children to remain in the country and apply for work authorization. The Trump administration announced on Sept. 5 that it would end DACA, saying the program represented an unlawful exercise of executive authority. The program was set to expire March 5 before Alsup’s ruling was issued Tuesday night. Trump has said he remains open to a legislative fix for DACA. He met with lawmakers Tuesday, indicating he would sign legislation to protect DACA recipients if it were combined with other measures, such as funding for a border wall and additional measures to prevent immigrants from bringing family members to the U.S. No agreement has yet been finalized.

BAL Analysis: Tuesday’s ruling was welcomed by supporters of the DACA program, but the administration is likely to appeal the ruling. BAL will continue to follow judicial and legislative developments related to DACA and will alert clients to any significant changes.

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

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