A federal judge ruled Tuesday against the Trump administration's decision to end a program protecting some young immigrants from deportation, calling the Department of Homeland Security's rationale against the program "arbitrary and capricious."
U.S. District Judge John D. Bates in Washington wrote that the decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, "was unlawful and must be set aside."
Bates wrote that DHS' decision "was predicated primarily on its legal judgment that the program was unlawful. That legal judgment was virtually unexplained, however, and so it cannot support the agency's decision."
Bates gave DHS 90 days to "better explain its view that DACA is unlawful." If the department cannot come up with a better explanation, he wrote, it "must accept and process new as well as renewal DACA applications."
The Justice Department said in a statement Tuesday night that the ruling "doesn't change" DOJ's position on the facts.
"DACA was implemented unilaterally after Congress declined to extend benefits to this same group of illegal aliens," the statement reads. "As such, it was an unlawful circumvention of Congress, and was susceptible to the same legal challenges that effectively ended DAPA. The Department of Homeland Security therefore acted within its lawful authority in deciding to wind down DACA in an orderly manner. Promoting and enforcing the rule of law is vital to protecting a nation, its borders, and its citizens. The Justice Department will continue to vigorously defend this position, and looks forward to vindicating its position in further litigation."
DACA allowed immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children, known as Dreamers, to stay and work legally under renewable permits. President Donald Trump announced last year that he would end the program started by President Barack Obama. It was officially rescinded in March, but DHS is continuing to issue renewals because of previous court orders.
Bates' ruling Tuesday night comes in a pair of cases whose lead plaintiffs are the NAACP and Princeton University. He is the third judge to rule against administration plans to end the program.