Judge orders DACA restored within 20 days

DACA is back or at least it will be if the government doesn’t come up with a more convincing argument for ending it. Today a federal judge in Washington, DC ruled the Trump administration would need to restart the program in 20 days. From Politico:

The restart won’t be immediate. U.S. District Judge John Bates said Friday that the order would be delayed until Aug. 23 to allow the government to appeal, but he denied a Justice Department motion to reconsider his earlier decision, saying there were still deficiencies in the administration’s rationale for rescinding DACA…

Bates in April became the third federal judge to order the administration to restart renewals for people previously approved for DACA.

He also threatened to vacate the memo ending DACA — and thereby restore the program in full — if Trump officials could not present an adequate reason for ending it.

CNN notes that this timeline is likely to set up conflicting judgments this month:

The decision comes less than a week before a hearing in a related case in Texas. In that case, Texas and other states are suing to have DACA ended entirely, and the judge is expected to side with them based on his prior rulings.

Previous court rulings in California and New York have already prevented the administration from ending DACA, but they only ordered the government to continue renewing existing applications. Bates’ ruling would go further and order the program reopened in its entirety. The earlier decisions are pending before appeals courts.

It appears the argument being made by the judge is not that the administration can’t end DACA (in theory) but that to do so it needs to offer a compelling reason, lest the decision be deemed “arbitrary and capricious.”

“The Court did not hold in its prior opinion, and it does not hold today, that DHS lacks the statutory or constitutional authority to rescind the DACA program. Rather, the Court simply holds that if DHS wishes to rescind the program—or to take any other action, for that matter—it must give a rational explanation for its decision,” he wrote. “A conclusory assertion that a prior policy is illegal, accompanied by a hodgepodge of illogical or post hoc policy assertions, simply will not do.”

The Supreme Court refused a request for an expedited ruling on this issue back in February. SCOTUS reportedly preferred that the decision make its way through the Appeals Court before they got involved. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments on a DACA case in May. A decision hasn’t been issued yet but it’s a good bet that it will eventually wind up back with SCOTUS.