Late Tuesday evening, a federal judge issued a temporary block on the Trump administration’s plans to dismantle DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The Obama-era initiative granted some 700,000 young undocumented people short-term passes to live and work without fear of deportation, but Donald Trump killed the program last September. In his ruling, Judge William Alsup wrote that the University of California, which brought the legal challenge, was “likely to succeed on the merits of their claim that the rescission was arbitrary and capricious.” The injunction applies nationwide.
The ruling this week is just one victory in what will be an extended legal battle over the constitutionality of Trump’s attacks on DACA. While Alsup called for the Department of Homeland Security to “maintain the DACA program” and resume accepting renewal applications on DACA, the injunction doesn’t immediately change anything materially for young people. There is, as of today, no process to begin filing renewal applications again.
The ruling, meanwhile, comes amid urgent and heated negotiations in Washington, DC, over the fate of the hundreds of thousands DACA recipients. Every day since September, some 120 young people have lost the ability to live, work, go to school, and drive. Advocates estimate that more than 14,000 young people have already fallen out of DACA status since Trump’s decision to eliminate the program. Come March, immigration advocates expect that 1,000 people a day will lose their DACA protections.
Activists have pinned their hopes on Congress’s January 19 deadline to pass a continuing resolution. Because passing the continuing resolution requires Democratic support, immigration reform advocates see it as their best vehicle to attach a DACA fix.
On Tuesday afternoon Trump presided over what without him would have been a high-stakes immigration meeting. Lawmakers from both parties and houses of Congress gathered to discuss a deal to rescue DACA recipients. The meeting was bizarre and worrisome. While lawmakers politely debated via coded platitudes about immigration, the subtext of the policy details and political realities of immigration policy seemed to fly right over the president’s head.
The president, at pains not only to beat back claims that he is suffering from early-onset dementia but also to show that he is a “very stable genius,” held court, calling on lawmakers to speak, engaging in jokey banter, and clearly making a strong effort to show that he was following the lines of discussion swirling around him. Instead, Trump appeared amenable to just about any deal the assembled group of congressional leaders wanted to send him. At different times he approved everything from a wholesale attempt at comprehensive immigration reform to a narrow, standalone “clean” DACA bill to protect just the young people who’ve enrolled in the deportation deferral program.