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DACA Immigration Protections Must Continue for Now, Judge Says

While the ruling provides temporary relief as debates in Congress continue, advocates wary of long legal and legislative battles ahead

DACA protest outside White House

Advocates for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program held a protest in San Francisco in September of 2017. (Photo: Pax Ahimsa Gethen/Wikimedia/cc)

A federal judge has blocked President Donald Trump's attempt to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, but immigrant rights advocates warn the ruling is no cause for celebration, with long legal and legislative battles ahead.

San Francisco-based U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup ruled (pdf) on Tuesday night that the Trump administration's decision to rescind DACA—which granted work permits and relief from deportation to undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children—"was arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, and otherwise not in accordance with law." He issued a nationwide injunction requiring the administration to immediately start accepting renewal applications again while his ruling makes its way through the federal courts. 

Despite Alsup's decision, advocates remain concerned about the lack of a long-term solution. "This is not a win for us," Camille Mackler, the director of immigration legal policy at the advocacy group New York Immigration Coalition, explained to the New York Times. "We're obviously glad that this is going to provide some relief, but what we really need is a clean DREAM Act," or legislation that would make DACA protections permanent without adding enforcement measures that Trump and congressional Republicans are demanding.

While Democrats have been more supportive of the so-called Clean Dream Act—the solution that advocates want—Republican lawmakers and the president have said they will only support DACA legislation with concessions to increase immigration enforcement, including Trump's long-promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. In statements to the press and on social media this week, the president has maintained his position that a wall "must be part of any DACA approval."

Alsup's decision came only hours after a bipartisan meeting with lawmakers and Trump to discuss immigration legislation that would include protections for DACA recipients. Following the ruling, a spokesman for the Justice Department said in a statement that the agency will "continue to vigorously defend" Trump's position. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called the ruling "outrageous," while the president turned to Twitter Wednesday morning to attack the 9th Circuit Court and Alsup's ruling.

Meanwhile, advocates—who were also quick to note that the ruling could be overturned by a higher court—urged caution and called on lawmakers to keep up their efforts to pass legislative protections for Dreamers, a term inspired by the DREAM Act that's used to describe those who are eligible for the program.

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