DREAMers celebrate as White House lashes out at federal court that temporarily saved DACA

“It’s an incredible feeling to know that the country I call home has delivered justice for me and Dreamers across America."

Immigrant advocates take to a rally in Washington, D.C. to call on Congress to pass permanent protections for so-called DREAMers, a group of undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children. (Credit: Esther Y. Lee)
Immigrant advocates take to a rally in Washington, D.C. to call on Congress to pass permanent protections for so-called DREAMers, a group of undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children. (Credit: Esther Y. Lee)

A federal judge in California on Tuesday evening temporarily prevented the Trump administration from ending an Obama-era program that granted deportation relief and work authorization for hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought to the United States as children.

In his ruling, U.S. District Judge William Alsup issued a nationwide injunction preventing the Trump administration from ending the renewal process for current beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The limited ruling, however, allows the administration to continue to block new applications by eligible immigrants who have never applied for the program before, CNN reported. Until a final judgement is made, Alsup said the program should be allowed to continue and current beneficiaries should be allowed to renew their DACA status.

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Last September, the Trump administration phased out the DACA program, which has provided temporary deportation relief and work authorization in two-year increments to certain qualified immigrants brought to the country as children. About 798,980 people have received DACA, 95 percent of whom are in the American workforce or in school. At the time, the Trump administration allowed one final two-year extension for applicants whose DACA status expires before March 5, 2018, throwing Congress the task of passing permanent legislation for these beneficiaries. Individuals whose DACA statuses expired after March 5 would revert to their original statuses and be at risk of deportation.

In his ruling Alsup said that plaintiffs — which includes several so-called DREAMers from California, the University of California system, and multiple California cities — could succeed “on the legal merits of the lawsuit claiming that the Trump administration’s decision to end the program was ‘arbitrary and capricious’ and based on a flawed legal premise,” USA Today reported.

One of the plaintiffs on the case Jirayut (“New”) Latthivongskorn moved to the United States from Thailand at the age of nine. He is now pursuing both a medical degree from UC San Francisco and a Master of Public Health degree from Harvard University

“It’s an incredible feeling to know that the country I call home has delivered justice for me and Dreamers across America,” Latthivongskorn said in an emailed statement. “This is a huge victory for the idea that America is still a place of opportunity for everyone. But we also know that we still have a long way to go before the American Dream is fully restored.”

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Other plaintiffs include DREAMers brought to the country as children from Mexico and are now either in school or employed.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders criticized the court’s decision in a statement Wednesday. “We find this decision to be outrageous, especially in light of the president’s successful bipartisan meeting with House and Senate members at the White House on the same day,” the statement read. “An issue of this magnitude must go through the normal legislative process.”

In the current political debate, Democratic congressional lawmakers have been scrambling to force Republican counterparts to agree to a “clean DACA bill,” which includes permanent protections for so-called DREAMers without drastic immigration enforcement measures, within the contents of a must-pass spending bill on January 19 to avoid a government shutdown. In a publicly televised meeting on Tuesday, President Donald Trump appeared to agree with Democrats to a “clean” bill but then called for more money for a border wall and enhanced border security measures in exchange for any protections.

“The Court’s decisions is a powerful recognition that the lives of undocumented youth should not hang in limbo,” Erika Andiola, a prominent undocumented activist said in an emailed press statement. “We need permanent protection, and we do not want to be at the whim of a back and forth legal strategy. There is a clear way to grant permanent protection, Congress can pass a clean Dream Act on the upcoming January 19 spending bill.”