A trial judge from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia recently ruled that the Trump administration must fully restore DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. However, he delayed the effect of the ruling for 20 days to give the administration a chance to appeal.
Meanwhile, the state of Texas asked another federal judge, this time from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, to end the DACA program. This is the same federal judge who previously ruled that an expansion of DACA and certain protections for immigrant parents were unlawful because they had been created by an Obama-era executive order.
As you may know, DACA creates legal protections for approximately 700,000 people who were brought to the U.S. as children. It protects them from deportation and allows them to get driver’s licenses and work permits.
Why are two separate federal judges ruling on whether DACA is illegal?
Opponents and supporters of DACA have filed cases in their home districts, and since federal district judges are legally equal to one another, they can issue opposite rulings which would then have to be reconciled by appellate courts or the U.S. Supreme Court.
In the Washington, D.C., case, the judge had previously ruled that the Trump administration’s decision to rescind DACA was made arbitrarily and capriciously and was therefore illegal. He asked the administration to present “a coherent explanation of its legal opinion” or to reissue its decision to end DACA with a bona fide policy reason. Since no bona fide or coherent legal reason has been presented to support the administration’s position, he ruled that DACA must be fully reinstated.
The administration must now present more than “a conclusory assertion that a prior policy is illegal, accompanied by a hodgepodge of illogical or post hoc policy assertions,” the judge wrote, or begin accepting and processing both new DACA applications and renewals.
There has been no ruling yet in the Texas case. The plaintiffs argue that DACA was never legally implemented in the first place and that DACA-protected immigrants drain state resources and take American citizens’ jobs — creating irreparable harm. The defendants, represented by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund deny that DACA beneficiaries have any significant negative effect on society, and also that such effects are irrelevant to the legal standing of the program.
Both sides are almost certain to appeal any adverse rulings. The next step will be for federal appeals courts to review the rulings. If two or more appeals courts disagree on the outcome, there is a good chance the case would be taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court.