August 8, 2018

Federal Court Upholds DACA Ruling; DREAMers Remain in Limbo

By Donald Gilpin

In a ruling Friday, August 3, a Washington, D.C. federal court reaffirmed its earlier finding that the federal government’s decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was unlawful.

Supporting a lawsuit brought by Princeton University, recent Princeton graduate Maria De La Cruz Perales Sanchez, and Microsoft Corporation, U.S. District Judge John D. Bates gave the government until August 23 to decide if it will appeal the decision, which requires the government to accept new DACA applications and issue renewals.

As Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund (LALDEF) Executive Director Adriana Abizadeh pointed out, however, the DACA controversy remains unresolved and the DREAMers remain in limbo.

“DACA has been in a tumultuous state for almost a year,” she said. She cited “partial wins” in January with a preliminary injunction mandating the acceptance of DACA renewal applications and in Judge Bates’s ruling last Friday’s ordering a full restart of DACA, but she expressed concern about a preliminary hearing (Texas v. Nielsen) scheduled for today in Texas.

“This case is another in a line of many to do away with the DACA program,” Abizadeh noted on Tuesday. “If tomorrow’s case decides that DACA is unlawful, we will engage in mass protest with immigrants and advocates throughout the country. Judge Hanen [Andrew S. Hanen of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas], who is presiding over the case, presided over the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) case in 2015 and his ruling shut down the implementation of that program that would have provided employment authorization to over 3.5 million individuals, two-thirds of whom had been here for over 10 years.”

DACA offers protection from deportation to undocumented students, known as DREAMers, who arrived in the United States as children and allows them to continue their studies or work here. Latest statistics from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services indicated a total of about 689,800 DACA recipients in the country, with New Jersey hosting about 17,400. New Jersey Policy Perspective last year reported that 87 percent of DACA recipients in the state are working, contributing $66 million in state and local taxes each year. It noted that the repeal of DACA would cause New Jersey to lose an estimated $1.6 billion each year in state gross domestic product.

Princeton University President Christopher L. Eisgruber applauded Judge Bates’ decision last Friday. “We are very pleased that the court today reaffirmed its ruling that the government’s termination of the DACA program ‘was unlawful and must be set aside.’ As the court noted, it ‘sees no reason to change its earlier determination that DACA’s rescission was arbitrary and capricious.’”

He continued, “Princeton University’s continued success as a world-class institution of learning and research depends on our ability to attract talent from all backgrounds, including DREAMers. Our DACA students have earned numerous academic honors, awards, and fellowships. Their contributions strengthen our community, and we are proud to stand with them.”

Permanent Solution?

Both Eisgruber and Microsoft President Brad Smith emphasized the need for permanent protection for DREAMers through congressional action. “A lasting solution for DREAMers has become an economic imperative and a humanitarian necessity,” said Smith. “We hope today’s decision will encourage the nation’s leaders to work together before the end of the year to address the uncertainty DREAMers have been living with for almost a year. DREAMers grew up in this country, attended our schools, pay taxes, and contribute to our communities. They deserve bipartisan action by Congress.”

Eisgruber concurred with Smith’s plea for legislative action. “Though we are delighted with today’s ruling,” he said, “we will continue to urge Congress to enact a permanent solution that recognizes the contributions DREAMers make and grants them the permanent protection and certainty that they deserve.”