Judge restores Obama-era DACA program

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Ruling makes thousands of young undocumented immigrants including South Asians eligible for work permits.

A New York court has ordered the Trump administration to immediately begin accepting new applications for an Obama-era program shielding undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children from deportation.

Judge Nicholas Garaufis of the US District Court in Brooklyn Friday reversed the Trump administration’s latest round of rules placing further limits on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA).

DACA currently protects about 640,000 undocumented young immigrants, including about 5,000 South Asians.

As of July, an estimated 300,000 young people are eligible for the program and still waiting for a chance to apply. That includes 55,000 who have aged into eligibility over the last three years.

In his ruling, Garaufis said the terms of the federal program must be immediately restored to what they were “prior to the attempted rescission of Sept. 2017” when the White House began a series of actions to dismantle the program.

READ: US judge strikes down limitations to DACA program (November 17, 2020)

The judge also instructed officials to reinstate two-year permits for qualifying applicants. Over the summer, the administration had begun issuing one-year permits.

Garaufis’ decision is the latest court ruling against the administration. In June, the Supreme Court blocked the Trump administration’s 2017 attempt to end DACA, saying the administration’s reasoning was “arbitrary and capricious.”

In July, a federal court in Maryland also ordered the administration to start accepting new applicants.

But 11 days later, Chad Wolf, acting secretary of Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a memorandum cutting renewal permits from two years to one and blocking all new applications.

READ: Trump administration to reject new DACA applications (July 29, 2020)

In November, Garaufis ruled that Wolf was not lawfully serving as DHS acting secretary when he issued the changes because the “DHS failed to follow its order of succession, as it was lawfully designated under the Homeland Security Act.”

As a result, Garaufis vacated the changes initiated by Wolf, who has been serving as acting secretary since November 2019. He has not been confirmed by the Senate.

DHS has until Monday to post a public notice “displayed prominently on its website and on the websites of all other relevant agencies, that it is accepting first-time requests for consideration of deferred action under DACA.”

“The ruling is a huge victory for people who have been waiting to apply for DACA for the first time,” Veronica Garcia, staff attorney at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, said in a statement.

READ: Federal Court orders USCIS to accept new DACA applications (July 18, 2020)

Wolf’s “decision to suspend the program was just another attempt by the Trump administration to wield its extremely racist and anti-immigrant views and policies,” she said.

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