A federal judge last night jolted the debate over immigration policy, ordering the Trump administration to restore part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Four months after Donald Trump put Dreamers’ futures in jeopardy, U.S. District Judge William Alsup issued a preliminary injunction, ordering the Department of Homeland Security to resume accepting renewal applications.
NBC News’ report added:
Alsup, who was nominated to the court by President Bill Clinton, scolded DHS for having presented no analysis of the impact its order would have on the almost 700,000 young people “who had come to rely on DACA to live and to work in this country.”
“These individuals had submitted substantial personal identifying information to the government, paid hefty fees and planned their lives according to the dictates of DACA,” Alsup wrote. “The administrative record includes no consideration to the disruption a rescission would have on the lives of DACA recipients, let alone their families, employers and employees, schools and communities.”
And he called the government’s argument that DHS doesn’t even have the authority to administer DACA “arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion.”
The 49-page ruling, which the White House has been quick to condemn, is online here (pdf).
The decision will, of course, be appealed, and it has the potential to dramatically effect the political debate in Washington. But while we wait for the process to unfold, there was something Alsup wrote that struck me as politically significant:
“On provisional relief motions, district judges must consider whether (or not) such relief would be in the public interest. On this point, we seem to be in the unusual position wherein the ultimate authority over the agency, the Chief Executive, publicly favors the very program the agency has ended. In September, President Trump stated his support for DACA, tweeting: ‘Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military? Really! ….’ He has also called upon Congress to ratify DACA, tweeting, ‘Congress now has 6 months to legalize DACA (something the Obama Administration was unable to do). If they can’t, I will revisit this issue!’”
In other words, the federal judge in this case felt compelled to consider the public’s interest in deciding whether or not to keep the DACA program going, and he ruled against the Trump administration because Trump himself helped make the case that protecting the Dreamers is, in fact, in the public’s interest. The president’s tweets had the effect of undermining the president’s legal position.
And if that sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because we keep confronting this dynamic.
* In Bowe Bergdahl’s case, the judge indicated that he would consider Donald Trump’s record of highly provocative rhetoric towards Bergdahl as part of the sentencing decision.
* The initial versions of the White House’s Muslim ban faced repeated legal difficulties because of Trump’s own rhetoric.
* The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals concluded over the summer that Democratic attorneys general could participate in a case over health care policy as a result of Trump’s rhetoric.
* And the administration’s lawyers ran into the same problem in April trying to defend Trump’s executive order on so-called “sanctuary cities.”
In each case, Trump’s words have been used against him in court. His opponents should probably hope he never stops speaking his mind so freely.