DACA Termination OK’d by Judge, Setting Up Court Battle

A federal judge in Maryland ruled that the Trump administration’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was lawful.

The decision, which is likely to be appealed, sets up a potential split among the federal appeals courts and increases the chances that the issue will wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Two other federal judges—one in California and one in New York—questioned the administration’s decision to end DACA and ordered U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to accept renewal applications while the cases proceed. Those decisions both have been appealed.

The Supreme Court declined Feb. 26 to take the Justice Department’s direct appeal from the California decision, but it left the door open for possible consideration of the DACA case after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has weighed in.

Judge Roger W. Titus of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland on March 5 disagreed with the other two federal district court decisions.

Regardless of whether DACA was lawful to begin with, there was nothing wrong with the Department of Homeland Security changing policy and ending the program, Titus said.

Titus said he had ruled according to the law but wasn’t happy with the outcome. He urged legislative and executive action to remedy the situation.

“DHS’s rationale provided in the DACA Rescission Memo was a belief, based on recent court decisions and the advice of the Attorney General, that DACA was unlawful,” the judge wrote. “Assuming that a reasonable basis for that belief exists in the Administrative Record, how could trying to avoid unlawful action possibly be arbitrary and capricious? Quite simply, it cannot,” he said.

President Donald Trump’s comments about DACA and immigration in general were “misguided, inconsistent, and occasionally irrational,” Titus said. But they don’t prove that there was an ulterior, racially discriminatory motive behind the decision to end the program, he said.

A representative for the Department of Homeland Security didn’t respond to Bloomberg Law’s request for comment.

‘Last Line of Defense’

The head of one of the groups that filed the challenge against the DHS said he is still hopeful.

“The judiciary is the last line of defense for the Dreamers and we still hope we can depend on the courts to save our young people from deportations,” said Gustavo Torres, executive director of CASA de Maryland, which was one of several immigrant organizations that brought the lawsuit. “With the lack of action from Congress and the President’s decision to cancel the program with no solution in place, we see the judiciary branch as our last hope. President Trump broke up DACA and as far as we see it, is showing no intention to fix it,” he said in a March 6 statement provided to Bloomberg Law.

The Senate considered various bills to provide legal status to DACA recipients and other young, undocumented immigrants during the week of Feb. 12. But lawmakers failed to garner enough votes to pass any of the proposals, including one backed by the White House. Some of the urgency behind the legislation may have waned in light of the two court orders requiring that DACA continue despite an original end date of March 5.

“Federal Judge in Maryland has just ruled that ‘President Trump has the right to end DACA,’” Trump tweeted early March 6. “President Obama had 8 years to fix this problem, and didn’t. I am waiting for the Dems, they are running for the hills!” he said.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) commented on the situation in a March 6 op-ed for CNN. “President Trump and the White House are not interested in solving this problem—they have so far tried to use Dreamers as bargaining chips to push forward their anti-immigrant agenda,” Schumer wrote. “President Trump had plenty of opportunities to protect Dreamers, but nothing was enough to satisfy his administration’s anti-immigrant wish list,” he said.

Titus Urges Change

Despite finding that the DHS was within its authority to end DACA, Titus nevertheless had strong words for Congress and the White House.

“This Court does not like the outcome of this case, but is constrained by its constitutionally limited role to the result that it has reached,” the judge said.

“Hopefully, the Congress and the President will finally get their job done,” he said.

The case is CASA de Md. v. Dep’t of Homeland Sec., 2018 BL 74036, D. Md., No. 8:17-cv-02942, 3/5/18.