On April 24, 2018, the U.S. District Court for the District of Colombia found that the Administration’s justification for rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was unlawful. The decision aligns with two other federal court decisions that enjoined DACA’s rescission which are currently on appeal, but also differed in one critical way.
The prior federal court decisions ordered the government to resume processing applications to renew the DACA status of those individuals who had previously received it. This latest decision orders the government to also resume processing applications for DACA status by those who meet the program’s eligibility requirements but who are applying for the first time. (Eligible DACA youth could not apply until reaching age 15, and those who turned 15 after September 5, 2017, the date the Administration rescinded DACA, have been unable to apply.)
The D.C. Federal District Court’s decision applies nationwide. However, the Court stayed its decision for 90 days to give the government an opportunity to provide additional justification for its decision to rescind. If the government does not respond, the injunction will take effect on July 23, 2018. If the government does respond, the Court will consider the legality of its new rationale.
So, while the media is largely hailing this decision as a victory for DACA supporters, it is much more ambiguous than that. It potentially could lead the same Court eventually to rule in favor of the government, if the government follows the decision’s blueprint for correcting the deficiencies in its original DACA rescission rationale.
Once again, the only real solution for DACA/Dreamers lies with Congress. A fourth Federal District Court had previously ruled that the DACA decision was legal. It’s clear that with four differing federal court rulings, and with pending appeals, litigating DACA’s continued existence offers only a temporary reprieve and no certainty to DACA/Dreamers whose lives and futures in the U.S. are very much in limbo.
Congress must continue to work for bipartisan legislation offering permanent legal status to the DACA/Dreamers who are already integral members of our communities and our economy.