January 29, 2023

A federal judge just threw a major wrench into Trump’s mass deportation plans

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President Trump has just been told to take his favorite political football – the 800,000 “Dreamers” who were brought to the U.S. as small children by undocumented parents – and punt.


Trump’s ongoing efforts to unilaterally kill the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program as of March 5, has been put on hold after a second federal judge ruled that his efforts were “arbitrary and capricious.”

Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York did not challenge the president’s right to end the program begun under President Obama but said that the way he went about it was improper and thus illegal.

“The question before the court is thus not whether defendants could end the DACA program,” wrote Judge Garaufis, a Clinton appointee to the federal bench, “but whether they offered legally adequate reasons for doing so.”

“Based on its review of the record before it,” continued the judge, “the court concludes that defendants have not done so.”

Trump can still rescind the program in the future, ruled the judge, but he must do so in the right way.

In the meanwhile, Trump must restart the DACA program, maintain the deportation amnesty and accept new applicants as well as renewals. 

That means they can apply to join or renew, but it does not mean the Trump administration has to actually approve the applications.

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The DACA program has become a political football because Democrats have insisted on keeping the program going to protect young people who have registered, obeyed the law, paid taxes and been good citizens of a country that has denied them full citizenship.

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Trump, as part of his broad anti-immigration efforts, has thrown DACA into the mix to give him leverage to get funding increases for more border guards and billions to fund the wall he wants to be built along the Southern border.

Democrats have refused to ante up the $35 billion that Trump wants for the wall and Trump has refused to renew the DACA program. This week, with Democrats and Republicans still far apart in negotiations, the president said his deadline of March 5 was when it would end “forever.”

In January, a federal judge in California had ruled in another case that Trump also acted improperly, but his ruling was more limited and did not force the administration to begin taking new applications or renewal requests. 

Trump’s Justice Department is currently waiting for a response from the U.S. Supreme Court which they have asked to rule on the California judge’s ruling.

“Today’s ruling shows that courts across the country agree that Trump’s termination of DACA was not just immoral, but unlawful as well,” Karen Tumlin of the National Immigration Law Center told CNN. 

Trump has insisted on bunching the Dreamers in with all immigrants as a way to get leverage, but he is playing with the lives of young people who have grown up knowing no other country but the U.S. and the vast majority of whom have been productive and happy members of our society.

However, as always, Trump has no qualms about messing with people’s lives as part of his efforts to tamp down all immigration, which is a political point that plays to his base.

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As usual, Trump is on the wrong side of what is right and doesn’t care. At least there are federal judges who do care about people and the law,  as well as politics.





Benjamin Locke

Benjamin Locke is a retired college professor with an undergraduate degree in Industrial Labor and Relations from Cornell University and an MBA from the European School of Management.

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