Yesterday afternoon, a federal district judge ordered the Trump administration to reinstate the Obama-era DACA program. Those protected under the DACA program are commonly known as “Dreamers.” This program currently enrolls about 650,000 individuals. Immigration Lawyers in Portland Oregon have not been able to help new DACA applicants apply over the past few years because of this current Administration’s limitations. Up to 300,000 additional undocumented immigrant teens and young adults could be allowed to apply to DACA under this court ruling. DACA, known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, was created by Obama in 2012. It has protected over 800,000 eligible non-citizens from deportation and has allowed these individuals to live and work in the United States legally.
In the new case of Batalla Vidal v. Wolf, Judge Nicholas Garaufis of the Brooklyn district court ordered the Trump administration to allow newly eligible immigrants to file new DACA applications. This reverses Department of Homeland and Security (DHS) secretary Chad Wolf’s July memorandum that restricted the program to only those who were already enrolled.
Judge Garaufis has instructed the U.S. DHS to publish a public notice by Monday that indicates that DHS will accept and adjudicate all new DACA petitions from eligible immigrants who are not currently enrolled in the program. Garaufis also noted that officials must grant approved DACA applicants two-year work permits, rather than the one-year permits proposed by the Trump administration this summer.
This November 2020, Garaufis issued another ruling in which he found that DHS’s acting secretary Chad Wolf did not have the legal authority to shut down DACA for new applicants or to shorten the validity of DACA-recipients’ work permits from two years to one. At the time, Garaufis said that Wold’s appointment to DHS was unlawful because it violated the 2002 Homeland Security Act. Congress’ Government Accountability Office also determined Wolf’s appointment to be invalid in August.
As we approach January 20th, President-elect Joe Biden has vowed to fully restore the DACA program after his inauguration. But if Garaufis’ order still stands, Biden’s goal would have already been completed. However, Biden continues to face pressure from immigrant rights groups to overhaul the U.S.’s existing immigration system to reform its laws to further support DACA recipients and other undocumented immigrants.
While this order is a beautiful victory for DACA recipients and potential eligible petitioners, many Republican-led states are pushing U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen to declare the program unlawful and to terminate it. Hanen has previously blocked Obama’s 2014 expansion of DACA and also blocked the creation of another program meant to protect undocumented parents of U.S. green card holders and citizens from deportation. Look out for Hanen’s hearing on this case, scheduled for December 22nd.
Furthermore, the Trump administration could appeal the ruling by Judge Garaufis in the coming days. Immigration advocates certainly hope that the administration won’t pursue this legal fight to end the program, given that a new Democratic administration is soon to take over.