A federal judge on Friday, July 17, ordered the Trump administration to begin accepting new applications for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program following growing complaints that new applications were being denied.
This comes after a United States Supreme Court ruling last month upheld the program that protected young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children from deportation.
Despite the ruling, immigration advocates were quick to realize that new applicants were being denied.
Judge Paul Grimm of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland said Friday that the program must be “restored to its pre-September 5, 2017 status,” referring to the date President Donald Trump first tried to terminate the program.
“Defendants and their agents, servants, employees, attorneys, and all persons in active concert or participation with any of them are ENJOINED from implementing or enforcing the DACA rescission and from taking any other action to rescind DACA that is not in compliance with applicable law,” the order wrote.
The Trump administration had long claimed that the DACA program was unlawful and that courts did not have the power to review its decision.
However, the Supreme Court’s ruling last month allowed the program to continue on findings that the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) effort to end it was “arbitrary and capricious.”
The ruling did allow the Trump administration to file for a rehearing and present stronger justifications — which Trump said his administration would do — but the deadline to do so lapsed on Monday, July 13.
On Tuesday, 33 senators, including Democratic Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Dick Durbin of Illinois, wrote a letter to acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, demanding that he “immediately comply” with the Supreme Court’s decision and accept the new DACA applications.
Over 300,000 young people are eligible to apply for DACA for the first time, according to the Center for American Progress.
In addition to the DHS not making any statements or official notices to the public saying that it would comply with the high court’s decision, the senators pointed to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website that they said attacked DACA recipients and falsely claimed that the Supreme Court’s decision had “no basis in law.”
The agency’s website still says that USCIS is not accepting new DACA applications, as of Friday, July 14. A disclaimer at the top of the page says that the “information on this page is out of date” but may still be useful.
The senators in their letter also highlighted that the USCIS webpage for the DACA program appeared to have been last updated in February 2018, while its accompanying “Frequently Asked Questions” page was apparently last updated in March 2018.
“Your agency has had ample opportunity to prepare for the recent Supreme Court decision,” the senators wrote. “However, to date, Congress and the American people have not received any information regarding your agency’s compliance with the Court’s holding.”
Confusion over DACA
The recent Supreme Court decision was met with a collective sigh of relief from the roughly 650,000 current DACA recipients of which nearly 200,000 are in California. But recipients and advocates for the program acknowledged that the Trump administration would very likely continue to challenge it.
“From the get-go in 2012, we’ve been saying that this is an executive order [by former President Barack Obama] and that the next president could take it away,” Set Hernandez Rongkilyo, an undocumented Fil-Am filmmaker and community organizer previously told the Asian Journal following the Supreme Court ruling.
Trump announced plans to rescind the program back in 2017, claiming that its adoption was unlawful and that courts did not have the power to review its decision. When lower courts blocked his efforts, his administration appealed directly to the Supreme Court.
Following the Supreme Court decision, Trump took to Twitter to describe the decision as “horrible & politically charged.” He likened the ruling to “shotgun blasts into the face of people that are proud to call themselves Republicans or Conservatives.”
However, after long vowing to end the Obama-era program, Trump took an unexpectedly different tone towards the program last week.
In an interview with Telemundo on Friday, July 10, Trump said that he would be issuing a bill that would give DACA recipients a “road to citizenship.”
White House spokesman Judd Deere, in a follow-up statement, said that the administration’s plans would “not include amnesty,” however.
The following Tuesday, Trump said in a Rose Garden press conference that he was working on DACA to “make people happy.”
“We’ve been taking care of people from DACA in a very Republican way,” Trump said without providing details. “I’ve spoken to many Republicans, and some would like to leave it out, but, really, they understand that it’s the right thing to do.”
Unsure of what next direction the Trump administration will make, immigration advocates remain focused on the fact the administration has still refused to accept new DACA applications.
“The longer the administration refuses to accept and adjudicate new applications and declines to issue a new recession order…the more of a legal concern that becomes,” Yale Law School professor Muneed Ahmad told the Los Angeles Times.