The White House is calling the federal court ruling to halt dismantlement of DACA “outrageous,” but immigration advocates see it as a victory — although not a lasting one.
On Tuesday, a federal district judge in California issued a preliminary injunction against the Trump administration’s effort to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). The program was begun under the Obama administration to offer deportation relief and work authorization to young people brought to the U.S. as children, known as “Dreamers.”
On Sept. 5, 2017, the Trump administration announced it was ending the program and phasing it out over the following six months.
Since the program’s initiation in 2012, nearly 800,000 unauthorized immigrants have been granted protection. DACA recipients will begin losing status as of March 6 in waves, though some who were unable to re-apply have already lost benefits.
Since the administration announced the end to DACA, 12,710 DACA recipients have had their status expire, but there were also a number of approvals for new, initial requests.
There are currently, 686,100 DACA recipients, according to Immigration and Citizenship Services (USCIS), which manages the program.
The court ruling came on the same day that the White House held a bipartisan meeting to discuss immigration reform and amidst ongoing congressional negotiations to reach a DACA deal. The president hosted more than a dozen Republican and Democratic senators for talks on immigration, which turned into a highly unusual, real-time negotiation in front of cameras.
At one point, Trump said that any legislation must be bipartisan and should be “a bill of love.” It also must include, he said, funding for a wall “on a good portion” of the border.”
Many Democrats oppose the wall — a major Trump campaign promise.
The White House said that during the closed-door portion of the meeting, lawmakers “reached an agreement to negotiate legislation that accomplishes critically needed reforms in four high-priority areas: border security, chain migration, the visa lottery, and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy.”
In the wake of the district court ruling, Trump said that the court system is “broken and unfair” and cited the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, the appeals court for cases in California.
“We find this decision to be outrageous, especially in light of the President’s successful bipartisan meeting with House and Senate members at the White House on the same day,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement. “An issue of this magnitude must go through the normal legislative process. President Trump is committed to the rule of law, and will work with members of both parties to reach a permanent solution that corrects the unconstitutional actions taken by the last administration.”
The Department of Justice, which will be responsible for appealing the ruling, said it doesn’t change the fact that DACA “was an unlawful circumvention of Congress.”
“Tonight’s order doesn’t change the Department of Justice’s position on the facts: DACA was implemented unilaterally after Congress declined to extend these benefits to this same group of illegal aliens. As such, it was an unlawful circumvention of Congress, and was susceptible to the same legal challenges that effectively ended DAPA,” said DOJ spokesman Devin O’Malley in a statement.
In July, 2016 the U.S. Supreme Court split left in place a lower court’s opinion that blocked then-President Obama’s expanded executive action from going into effect. The program, known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA), could have offered more than four million undocumented immigrants a chance to remain in the country without fear of deportation.
The Trump administration “acted within its lawful authority in deciding to wind down DACA in an orderly manner. Promoting and enforcing the rule of law is vital to protecting a nation, its borders, and its citizens. The Justice Department will continue to vigorously defend this position, and looks forward to vindicating its position in further litigation,” added O’Malley.
The federal court ruling blocks the Trump administration’s termination of DACA while the underlying case, brought by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, attorneys general for Maine, Maryland and Minnesota, as well as the University of California, individual Dreamers and other plaintiffs, continues.
Those plaintiffs obtained the preliminary injunction against the Trump Administration over its decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA).
The court wrote that the plaintiffs “have clearly demonstrated that they are likely to suffer serious irreparable harm absent an injunction.”
“Dreamers’ lives were thrown into chaos when the Trump Administration tried to terminate the DACA program without obeying the law,” said Becerra in a statement. The “ruling is a huge step in the right direction. America is and has been home to Dreamers who courageously came forward, applied for DACA and did everything the federal government asked of them.
Roughly a quarter of all DACA grantees, more than 200,000 young people, live in California, according to Becerra’s office.
On Wednesday, immigration advocates said that despite the victory in court, only Congress can deliver a permanent solution for DACA recipients– and “Dreamers” took to Capitol Hill again to ask for legislative protection.
“This court decision which is a victory, is just another step demonstrating the relentless nature of the cause,” said Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice. “This issue isn’t going to go away until we resolve it.”
There will likely be appeals and additional legal hurdles before the court’s decision has any impact on young undocumented people covered under Obama’s executive action.
Adrian Reyna, Campaign Director at United We Dream and a potential Dream Act beneficiary, said “living life with this level of highs and lows is incredibly difficult.”
He said his sister, also a potential beneficiary of DACA legislation, called him last night to ask if “everything was fixed.”
“Devil is in the details, of course not everything is fixed,” he said.
Alex Mallin, Devin Dwyer and Jonathan Karl contributed to this story.