New life for DACA: Supreme Court likely next stop for Dreamers – The Mercury News

A federal appeals court ruled that President Trump can’t immediately end the program that granted the nation’s so-called Dreamers protection from deportation, dealing his administration a significant blow and setting the stage for a showdown in the U.S. Supreme Court.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a unanimous decision by a three-judge panel, upheld a nationwide injunction blocking the White House from rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The Obama-era program has protected about 700,000 undocumented immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children, including 200,000 in California.

The court’s ruling came as Trump doubled down on his push to restrict immigration. The administration Thursday announced new rules giving the president sweeping authority to deny asylum to anyone who crosses the border illegally as a caravan of Central American immigrants continues its march toward the U.S.

Like a number of courts around the country, the 9th Circuit panel said the executive branch isn’t necessarily barred from ending DACA but that it has taken the wrong approach.

“Plaintiffs are likely to succeed on their claim that the rescission of DACA — at least as justified on this record — is arbitrary, capricious, or otherwise not in accordance with law,” wrote Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw.

Wardlaw was sympathetic in the decision and focused on Dulce Garcia, who filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration with five other Dreamers last year for rescinding DACA. Garcia, born in Mexico to poor parents, was brought to the U.S. illegally by her parents when she was 4. Her family struggled to make ends meet, but Garcia excelled academically, putting herself through college and law school. Today, she has her own law practice in San Diego, where she represents underserved community members in civil, criminal and immigration cases.

“Recognizing the cruelty and wastefulness of deporting productive young people to countries with which they have no ties, the Secretary of Homeland Security announced a policy in 2012 that would provide some relief to individuals like Garcia, while allowing our communities to continue to benefit from their contributions,” Wardlaw wrote.

The decision breathed new life into a program that has been stuck in limbo for more than a year and offered at least some temporary relief to anxious Dreamers. Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions directed the Department of Homeland Security to end DACA in September 2017, alleging it was an overreach of power and likely illegal.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services began accepting DACA applications again in January after a federal judge granted a preliminary injunction blocking the administration’s attempt to end the program. That decision followed a 2017 lawsuit led by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and counterparts in Maine, Maryland and Minnesota and the University of California, among others. At least 187,000 Dreamers have regained DACA status since then.

Becerra called the 9th Circuit’s decision a “tremendous victory for everyone who is a believer in the American dream.”

“This fight is personal for so many communities in California,” he said during a news conference Thursday. “As a son of immigrants myself, this fight is personal to me too.”

Earlier this week, the Justice Department asked the Supreme Court to take up the issue before appeals courts could rule in several pending cases involving DACA. The justices have not yet acted on that request.

“By virtue of the district courts’ orders, (the Department of Homeland Security) is being required to maintain a discretionary policy of non-enforcement sanctioning an ongoing violation of federal law by more than half a million individuals,” Solicitor General Noel Francisco wrote in a letter to the Supreme Court.

Trump didn’t immediately comment on Thursday’s ruling but has said the injunction upheld by the 9th circuit has prevented the White House and Congress from reaching a deal on DACA.

“Once the judge ruled that way, the Democrats didn’t want to talk anymore,” he said referring to the January ruling during a news conference Wednesday. “So we’ll see how it works out at the Supreme Court.”

Iriana Luna listens to students during a student government meeting at San Jose City College earlier this year. (Randy Vazquez/ Bay Area News Group) 

Dreamer Iriana Luna, of San Jose, was a year old when she was brought to the U.S illegally from Puebla, Mexico. She transferred from San Jose City College to UC Santa Cruz this fall, where she’s majoring in community studies.

“It’s allowed me to continue working and really focus on my education and getting a degree,” said Luna, who also works for a law office in San Jose and plans to go to law school.

But DACA shouldn’t be the end point, she said.

“There needs to be an immigration reform policy that will let people be fully part of this country and this nation,” Luna said. “Even if you have deferred action and you’re working a job or going to school, it’s still important for people to be fully included in our society.”

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