Judge’s ruling fully restores DACA protections, paving the way for new applicants

As President Donald Trump’s first term comes to an end, a federal judge dealt a blow to his administration’s effort to phase out the protections enacted by his predecessor in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

The ruling on Friday determined that the program should be fully restored, meaning hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants enrolled in the program will have an opportunity to complete certain steps on the way to legally remaining in the United States. 

The latest setback

After years of court battles in an attempt to derail the Obama-era protections that critics see as a form of amnesty, the latest setback comes with just weeks left until Trump’s current term is up — and the next occupant of the White House remains uncertain.

U.S. District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis’ ruling will immediately and fully restore DACA, going so far as to order the Department of Homeland Security to begin accepting applications for first-time applicants as soon as Monday.

The central issue of the case DHS has been in dispute since 2017, giving DHS officials the ability to refuse DACA applicants during the subsequent years.

During that time, the Trump administration suffered similar blows, including earlier this year when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against its attempt to rescind the program.

The high court ruled in a 5-4 decision that rolling back the protections amounted to a violation of the Administrative Procedure Act.

“Far, far, far from where we need to be”

In a memo he issued in July, acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf attempted to restrict the DACA work permits to only one year. The same federal judge behind Friday’s ruling also issued a decision against Wolf at that time, claiming that his ability to restrict the program was not valid given the “acting” role.

Democratic nominee Joe Biden is likely to appreciate the latest ruling, given his frequent defense of DACA and campaign promises to protect undocumented immigrants.

The former vice president has even promised to use the program to give those enrolled a viable path to U.S. citizenship, though his ability to enact such a plan would necessitate an act of Congress. With the GOP poised to retain a slim majority in the Senate, there is no guarantee a Biden administration could make good on that promise.

For some activists and progressive politicos, DACA should represnet just the first step toward a much broader platform of immigration policy reform.

Immigration attorney and Georgia state lawmaker Brenda Lopez Romero offered her advice for Biden in regard to DACA, saying: “It’s most definitely an important first step on Day One to do. But that is by far, far, far from where we need to be in terms of really mobilizing action for positive immigration reform.”

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