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Judge blocks Trump decision to end DACA program for young immigrants

PHOENIX — A U.S. judge ruled on Tuesday that President Donald Trump’s administration could not end an Obama-era program that granted temporary deportation protections to young immigrants.

In the ruling, U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup said that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program must remain in place while litigation over Trump’s decision unfolds.

Alsup also found that the government must resume accepting renewal applications from those who were already enrolled in the program, also known as DACA.

However, the government does not have to process new applications for young immigrants who had never before received protection under the program.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced an end to DACA in September, calling it an an “unconstitutional exercise of authority by the executive branch.”

In the ruling, Alsup said Sessions’ conclusion that the program was illegal appeared to be “based on a flawed legal premise.”

According to Politico, this ruling could have huge implications on the future of legislation that would have otherwise provided a pathway to legalization for the nearly 800,000 young immigrants in the program:

If the judge’s order remains in place, it could also roil ongoing legislative efforts on DACA by undercutting the urgency many advocates have expressed, calling for legislation to be passed before large numbers of Dreamers begin losing their protected status in March.

Alsup ruled on five separate lawsuits filed in northern California, including one by the state and another by the governing board of the University of California school system. The latter was filed in September by university president and former Arizona governor Janet Napolitano.

Alsup said lawyers in favor of DACA clearly demonstrated that the young immigrants “were likely to suffer serious, irreparable harm” without court action. The judge also said the lawyers have a strong chance of succeeding at trial.

Napolitano sued the Trump administration shortly after Sessions put an end to the Obama-era program that granted temporary work permits to undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children.

In an opinion article for The Los Angeles Times, she wrote that she was “seeking to prevent the government from stripping DACA recipients of their ability to live, study and work in our country free from fear of deportation.”

During a court hearing on Dec. 20, Alsup grilled an attorney for the Department of Justice over the government’s justification for ending DACA, saying many people had come to rely on it and faced a “real” and “palpable” hardship from its loss.

Alsup also questioned whether the administration had conducted a thorough review before ending the program.

Brad Rosenberg, a Justice Department attorney, said the administration considered the effects of ending DACA and decided to phase it out over time instead of cutting it immediately.

DACA recipients will be allowed to stay in the U.S. for the remainder of their two-year authorizations. Any recipient whose status was due to expire within six months also got a month to apply for another two-year term.

The Justice Department said in court documents that DACA was facing the possibility of an abrupt end by court order, but Alsup was critical of that argument.

People took out loans, enrolled in school and even made decisions about whether to get married and start families on the basis of DACA and now face “horrific” consequences from the loss of the program, said Jeffrey Davidson, an attorney for the University of California governing board.

“The government considered none of this at all when they decided to rescind DACA,” he said at the hearing.

DACA recipients are commonly referred to as “DREAMers,” based on never-passed proposals in Congress called the DREAM Act that would have provided similar protections for young immigrants.

The decision came the same day as the White House announced it had reached an agreement with a bipartisan group of lawmakers on an immigration deal that included DACA relief.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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