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Federal Judge Rules US Must Accept New DACA Applications


FILE - A sign is held aloft as people rally outside the Supreme Court in support of the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals program, Nov. 12, 2019, in Washington.

A federal judge ruled Friday the Trump administration must begin accepting new applications for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program benefiting hundreds of thousands of migrants brought illegally to the United States as minors.

U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis found that a memo issued in July by acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf was invalid. The memo suspended new applications to the program that protects some young immigrants from deportation and reduced how long renewals were valid, from two years to one year.

Friday’s ruling follows one in November by Garaufis that found that Wolf was unlawfully in his position. Garaufis is a senior district judge in the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of New York.

Garaufis said the government has three days to post a public notice that new DACA applications are being accepted. He also gave the government one month to provide a status report on the program.

An email seeking comment was sent by The Associated Press to the Department of Homeland Security.

“More than a million DACA-eligible youth have just been granted the opportunity and freedom to thrive in this country that is their home,” said Kamal Essaheb, deputy director of the National Immigration Law Center and former DACA recipient. “We celebrate this latest victory with our courageous plaintiffs and look ahead to a new pro-immigrant administration under President-elect [Joe] Biden, and a permanent fix for DACA youth on day one of his administration.”

Madhuri Grewal, federal immigration policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union said in a statement: “Tonight, we celebrate another victory. Dreamers, and DACA, are here to stay ... President-elect Biden must fulfill his commitment to introduce an immigration bill on day one to pursue permanent relief for immigrant communities. Simultaneously, the Biden administration can and must provide immediate relief to immigrant youth and their communities. After four years of relentless attacks by the current administration and decades of uncertainty, people deserve to live without fear.”

Donald Trump speaks during a ceremony in the Oval Office of the White House, Dec. 3, 2020, in Washington.
Donald Trump speaks during a ceremony in the Oval Office of the White House, Dec. 3, 2020, in Washington.

President Donald Trump tried to end the DACA program that was enacted in 2012 by his predecessor, President Barack Obama, but the Supreme Court ruled in June that the Trump administration did not follow proper procedures in shutting it down. That court ruling prompted Wolf to issue his memo.

There are more than 650,000 people who are part of DACA. To qualify, they had to have come to the United States before their 16th birthday, been in the country continuously since mid-2007, be under age 31 in mid-2012, have no felony or significant misdemeanor convictions, pose no national security threat, and either have a high school diploma, be enrolled in school or have a record of service in the U.S. military.

The Obama administration argued that those who qualified were people who lacked a legal immigration status through no fault of their own, in many cases knew only the United States as home and were contributing to the country.

Biden, who served as Obama’s vice president, said he would protect the group of immigrants, often referred to as “Dreamers,” and give them and other undocumented immigrants in the United States a pathway to citizenship.