Federal judge rules that the federal government must continue DACA and accept new applications from undocumented immigrants

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A protester holds a sign that reads "DEFEND DACA"
(Katie Albertson / Daily Titan)

A federal judge ruled Tuesday that protections for some undocumented immigrants in the U.S. stay in place, and that the federal government must continue granting them.

Although John Bates, in Washington, D.C., is the third U.S. district judge to make a ruling against President Donald Trump’s termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, Bates’ decision to order the federal government to accept new applications, on top of renewals, deals the largest blow.

Bates gave the ruling a delay of 90 days to allow the government an opportunity to better explain its stance, with the possibility of reversing his ruling.

While Bates’ ruling does work in favor of undocumented young adults,  Ana Aldazabal, Associated Students vice president-elect, said some undocumented Cal State Fullerton students she has spoken to are tired of “being played” by the DACA program, and that they don’t want a “Band-aid” for the situation of immigrant families.

“DACA isn’t a permanent solution and DACA is not a pathway to citizenship, and ideally that’s what we deserve as undocumented people in this country,” Aldazabal said.

At the time of this publication, Trump has not made an official statement on the ruling.

However, in a White House press briefing Wednesday, communications director Sarah Huckabee Sanders called Bates’ ruling “good news for smuggling organizations and criminal networks, and horrible news for our national security.”

CSUF fifth-year student and DACA recipient Berenice Guillen, however, said with this decision comes a sense of relief.

She said she hopes her protected status might allow her to travel in and out of the country to see her grandparents in Mexico, who she hasn’t seen in over 17 years.

“I have the opportunity to have this permit to work and be here without being afraid. I feel like other people having that security as well is really good,” Guillen said.

Bates not only ruled that the program, enacted in 2012 under former President Barack Obama, was lawful, but that the rescission of DACA under Trump, six months into his term, was “arbitrary and capricious.”

“The Department (of Justice) failed adequately to explain its conclusion that the program was unlawful,” Bates said in his ruling. “Neither the meager legal reasoning nor the assessment of litigation risk provided by (the Department of Homeland Security) to support its rescission decision is sufficient to sustain termination of the DACA program.”

On Sept. 5, 2017, the Trump administration announced a plan to “wind down” the program.

This jarred some of the roughly 800 DACA recipients enrolled at CSUF, prompted an emergency counseling session for affected students at the Titan Dreamers Resource Center, and elicited backlash on campus by student activists decrying the Trump administration’s move.

On Feb. 19, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a request by the Trump administration to hear a challenge to end the DACA program. This was one month before the March 5 deadline, given to Congress by Trump, to produce legislation on the program that would satisfy both sides, and particularly, Trump’s desire for a southern border wall. Congress never met that deadline.

Bates’ ruling comes amid a wave of anti-undocumented immigrant sentiments in Orange County cities, onset by the board of supervisors’ March 28 decision to join the DOJ lawsuit against the state of California for its three sanctuary city laws. Those laws entitle some undocumented immigrants to certain protections from federal authorities.

While many Orange County cities have expressed support for the DOJ lawsuit, Fullerton elected not to take an official stance on April 4 after hearing over 100 public speakers, who both attacked council members for their expressed support of the lawsuit and implored them to reconsider.

Several California officials have hailed Bates’ ruling.

“Another legal victory for our nation and Dreamers. These brave young people continue to demand fairness and justice from the only country they have ever known. It’s long past time for Congress to act,” wrote California Sen. Kamala Harris, in a tweet Wednesday.

Xavier Becerra, California attorney general, tweeted on Tuesday that Bates’ decision was “another victory for the #Dreamers who have been courageous & unafraid, for #DACA & for everyone who has boldly fought in court.”

As vice president next year, Aldazabal said she plans to add to the undocumented conversation.

“I want to be an advocate for the undocumented community at Cal State Fullerton,” she said.

Amy Wells contributed to this report.

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