Trump admin must accept new DACA applications, court rules

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program protects undocumented immigrants brought to U.S. as children

DACA beneficiaries and supporters rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on June 18, after the court rejected the Trump administration’’s push to end the program.  (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
DACA beneficiaries and supporters rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on June 18, after the court rejected the Trump administration’’s push to end the program. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted July 17, 2020 at 4:53pm

The Trump administration must resume accepting new applications for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and comply with a recent Supreme Court ruling, a federal judge ordered Friday.

U.S. District Judge Paul W. Grimm of the District of Maryland said his order “restores the DACA policy to its pre-September 5, 2017 status,” a reference to the day the Trump administration announced the president would rescind the program.

Grimm’s ruling comes nearly a month after the Supreme Court ruled that the White House’s effort to end the Obama-era program ran afoul of the Administrative Procedure Act. The high court pointed out that it was not ruling on whether DACA is a sound policy, only whether the government had a reasoned explanation for rescinding it.

DACA has given roughly 700,000 immigrants, unlawfully brought to this country as children, the ability to work and live in the United States without fear of deportation. In its decision, the Supreme Court ordered the government to begin processing new DACA applications. However, immigration attorneys and advocacy groups have complained that the Trump administration had failed to do so. 

[Dreamers, Congress see hard work ahead despite court ruling]

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Department of Homeland Security agency responsible for adjudicating immigration benefits and visas, did not immediately respond Friday to a request to comment on the ruling. In an earlier statement, however, the agency blamed technical errors for any rejection notices that went out to first-time DACA application submissions.

“Initial DACA requests rejected after June 19 were rejected due to their being incomplete, most commonly due to a lack of signature, missing or incomplete form pages, or an incorrect fee, which are all standard causes for an application’s rejection,” the agency said in the statement. “Recently, DACA initial rejection notices did not provide the specific standard reason(s) for rejection. USCIS is working to correct future notices.” 

However, a rejection notice the agency sent to a first-time DACA application, obtained by CQ Roll Call, contradicts that statement.  

“USCIS is no longer accepting initial requests for Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Form I-821D) and accompanying applications for Employment Authorization (Form I-765) and Form I-765 Worksheets (I-765WS) from individuals who have never been granted deferred action under DACA,” the rejection letter said. 

Tamara French, a Detroit-based immigration lawyer with a client whose new DACA application was recently rejected, expressed skepticism about the agency’s official response.

“As a government agency, you’re obligated to follow the final ruling of the Supreme Court. You can’t just not follow it because you don’t like it,” she said in an interview.

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Friday’s District Court ruling comes after mounting pressure from both Democrats and advocacy groups. More than 30 Senate Democrats earlier this week urged the Trump administration to immediately begin processing new DACA applications, saying that USCIS “had ample opportunity to prepare for the recent Supreme Court decision.”

“It is unclear what steps, if any, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has taken to implement the Supreme Court decision, including receiving and processing initial DACA applications, DACA renewal applications, and requests for advance parole as well as publication of information regarding DACA for new applicants and current recipients,” according to a letter, sent Tuesday to acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, signed by Sens. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois and Kamala Harris of California and 31 other Democrats.

The left-leaning Center for American Progress estimates that approximately 300,000 immigrants are eligible to apply for DACA for the first time in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling.

After the Supreme Court ruling, President Donald Trump hinted he would try to end the program again. No executive orders addressing the program have been issued, however.