On April 24, 2018, Federal Judge John D. Bates for the District of Columbia ruled DACA must remain in place and that the government must resume accepting new applications.
Judge Bates had concluded that the Trump Administration’s decision to cancel the program was done without any explanation as to how the program was unlawful, and thus the decision was “arbitrary and capricious” in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act (“APA”). In determining that the Court had authority to review the Trump Administration’s decision to rescind DACA, it explained:
…the cases are clear that courts have the authority to review an agency’s interpretation of the law if it is relied on to justify an enforcement policy, even when that interpretation concerns the lawful scope of the agency’s enforcement discretion. See Chaney, 470 U.S. at 832–33; OSG, 132 F.3d at 812; Crowley, 37 F.3d at 676–77. Under this rule, an official cannot claim that the law ties her hands while at the same time denying the courts’ power to unbind her. She may escape political accountability or judicial review, but not both. … Here, the Department’s decision to rescind DACA was predicated primarily on its legal judgment that the program was unlawful. That legal judgment was virtually unexplained, however, and so it cannot support the agency’s decision.
The judge has stayed his decision for 90 days to allow the Department of Homeland Security an opportunity to explain its decision for canceling DACA.
Two previous federal courts have issued injunctive relief for DACA renewals while those cases are being litigated. See Regents of the Univ. of Cal. v. U.S. Dep’t of Homeland Sec., 279
279 F. Supp. 3d 1011, 1026 (N.D. Cal. 2018) and Batalla Vidal v. Nielsen, 279 F. Supp. 401 (E.D.N.Y. 2018). In the present case, Judge Bates’ order provides that DHS must also accept new DACA applications, not just renewals.
President Bush appointed Judge Bates to the D.C. Circuit in 2001. His ruling is significant as it clearly establishes that there is and must be a check on unbridled executive authority, and that check is not partisan but critical to our democracy.