The Trump administration’s battle over the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) amnesty program was awarded a small victory last week when a federal judge ruled that the administration is not — as previously instructed — required to begin processing new DACA applications.
To recap, in April, Judge John D. Bates of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia called the government’s decision to end DACA “virtually unexplained” and therefore “unlawful.” In a shocking decision, Bates determined that the administration must not only continue to allow the so-called “dreamers” to apply for renewal, but that it must also begin to accept new applications. To give the government an opportunity to provide additional reasoning for ending the program, he stayed the ruling for 90 days.
At the end of the 90 days, Judge Bates determined that the administration still had not demonstrated sufficient reasoning for winding down the program, and ordered the government to officially restart the DACA program on August 23 for both current and new applicants. Attorney General Jeff Sessions vowed to appeal, but with the deadline looming, it seemed the program was set to begin again.
Then, in new court papers filed by the Justice Department last week, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) said that if they are forced to restart the DACA program completely, it would slow down approval for legal immigrants seeking admission to the U.S. The agency also predicted a surge of some 50,000 new DACA applications from illegal aliens who were eligible for the program but were prevented from enrolling after the administration rescinded it last year.
The argument appears to have resonated with Judge Bates. By the end of the week, the George W. Bush appointee said that the government, after all, does not have to begin accepting new applications. Recognizing the reality that a full restart would overwhelm USCIS, Judge Bates ruled that the administration must keep processing renewals for people already participating in the DACA program—as it is currently required to do by other court rulings. However, Bates decided to stay the portion of his ruling also requiring the administration to process new applications.