Immigrant rights defenders celebrated Friday after a federal judge delivered yet another blow to the Trump administration's drawn-out effort to kill Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an Obama-era program that protects certain undocumented residents who were brought to the United States as children from deportation.
Building on his November ruling that was similarly welcomed by right groups, U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis of Brooklyn ordered (pdf) the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to post a public notice by Monday that it is accepting new applications for DACA, which enables Dreamers to legally live and work in the country.
Garaufis, a Clinton appointee, also reiterated a determination he made in his ruling last month: Chad Wolf was not legally serving as acting secretary of DHS when he issued a July memo restricting DACA to those already enrolled in the program and limiting renewals and work permits to just a year rather than two.
BREAKING in our #DACA case: fed. court orders Trump admin to restore DACA to original 2012 form—re-opening it to 1st-time applicants, restoring work authorization & renewals to 2 yrs, & making travel on advance parole more widely available to recipients.
— Make the Road NY (@MaketheRoadNY) December 4, 2020
Wolf's memo had come after the U.S. Supreme Court decided in June that the Trump administration cannot end DACA, which has benefited about 800,000 young undocumented immigrants. According to advocates, Garaufis' order to fully restore the program could soon benefit hundreds of thousands of people across the country.
"This is a really big day for DACA recipients and immigrant young people," Karen Tumlin, director of the Justice Action Center, who litigated the class-action case, told the New York Times. "It opens the door for more than a million immigrant youth who have been unfairly denied their chance to apply for DACA."
The news elicited a flood of celebratory tweets from Dreamers, as some young undocumented immigrants are known, and advocacy groups:
HUGE NEWS!! Court decides #DACA program must return to its original form—how it was before the Trump's dismantling of the program.
— Cristina Jiménez (@CrisAlexJimenez) December 4, 2020
DACA is here to stay. Dreamers are here to stay.
— ACLU (@ACLU) December 5, 2020
A judge has ruled in our favor and ordered the Trump administration to fully restore #DACA, including opening up the program to new applicants for the first time since 2017.
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— NY AG James (@NewYorkStateAG) December 4, 2020
However, Dreamers "are not necessarily in the clear," the Washington Post reported Friday. "Attorneys general in Texas and other states have asked a federal judge to declare DACA unlawful and to provide for an orderly wind-down of it. A hearing in that case is scheduled for later this month."
Despite the ongoing right-wing attacks on DACA, Veronica Garcia, staff attorney at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC), also applauded the judge's order.
"The ruling is a huge victory for people who have been waiting to apply for DACA for the first time," she said in a statement. "Wolf's decision to suspend the program was just another attempt by the Trump administration to wield its extremely racist and anti-immigrant views and policies."
The ILRC previously put out a Blueprint for the Next Administration (pdf) that calls for fully restoring DACA. The document also urges the incoming administration to "review renewal applications that have been denied since 2017 and restore DACA for recipients that have been deported as a result of such denials."
President-elect Joe Biden, who served as vice president in the Obama administration, indicated after his defeat of President Donald Trump last month that he will appoint Alejandro Mayorkas as secretary of homeland security. The move was praised by immigrant rights advocates who noted that Mayorkas oversaw the creation and implementation of DACA.
The National Immigration Law Center (NILC) said in a series of tweets Friday that while the ruling was a "major victory for immigrant youth, led by immigrant youth," the group looks forward to "working with the incoming Biden administration to create a permanent solution for immigrant youth and communities."
This is a day to celebrate, and we look forward to working with the incoming Biden administration to create a permanent solution for immigrant youth and communities.
— National Immigration Law Center (@NILC) December 4, 2020
"As a result of this decision," the NILC said of Garaufis's ruling, "we encourage all eligible immigrant youth who hoped to file an initial #DACA application to consult with an immigration attorney to consider filing as soon as possible."