CAPITOL HILL - U.S. lawmakers who back a program shielding young undocumented immigrants from deportation hailed a lower court's order cementing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals in place.
"Beyond what the judges say, it's what the [American] people say. People want the Dreamers to be able to live in this country," Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota told VOA. "Over 90 percent of them work or are in school."
Last year, Trump set a March 5 expiration date for DACA, a program that has provided temporary work and study permits to 700,000 immigrants brought illegally to America as children, sometimes referred to as Dreamers.
On Tuesday, a federal judge ordered the Trump administration to keep DACA in place and to accept new applicants. Two other federal judges had previously ruled to preserve the program for those already enrolled.
The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Republican Chuck Grassley of Iowa, objected to a lower court judge single-handedly determining a nationwide policy.
"There's too much of a trend of a district judge, one of 93 districts, saying something is going to be applicable throughout the entire country. That seems a little far-fetched," Grassley said, adding that nothing is final until the Supreme Court weighs in.
In his decision, Judge John Bates called the Trump administration's termination of DACA "arbitrary and capricious" and said the administration "failed to adequately explain its conclusion that the program is unlawful."
Utah Republican Senator Orrin Hatch supports the DACA program but noted it was established by former President Barack Obama through an executive order, not as a law passed by Congress.
"If President Obama had a right to implement it, then certainly a subsequent president might very well have a right to reverse it. But I would prefer he didn't," Hatch said.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders slammed the ruling as "wrong on the law."
Sanders said the ruling "creates an incentive for more illegal immigrants to come here and causes them to expect similar judicial policies be applied to them. This ruling is good news for smuggling organizations and criminal networks and horrible news for our national security. It’s time for Congress to do what the president has called on them to do and offered to be part of, and actually fix this problem."
Months of negotiations between the White House and lawmakers of both parties failed to yield a permanent solution for DACA beneficiaries or agreement on other thorny immigration topics. With Trump's plan to end DACA thwarted, Democrats called for a resumption of talks.
"It's possible these court decisions will help him [Trump] get to a place where he wants to work with us again on an agreement," Klobuchar said.
Law expert Rick Su, a professor at the University at Buffalo School of Law, told VOA that while the latest court ruling helps DACA recipients in the short term, it could potentially harm them in the long run. He said the ruling takes the pressure off of Congress to act and could lead to a longer limbo for DACA recipients.
The ruling "gives them short term relief, but may potentially stifle any possibility of longer term relief," Su said.
Neither Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky nor House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin have given any indication that they are eager for either chamber to take up immigration reform between now and the November midterm elections.
Trump has put the blame on Democrats, accusing them of refusing to negotiate and using DACA recipients as political pawns.
"DACA was abandoned by the Democrats. Very unfair to them [Dreamers]!" the president tweeted last month.
"That's factually inaccurate," Oregon Democratic Senator Ron Wyden said of Trump's assertions, noting that Democrats were open to some of the president's immigration priorities during marathon negotiations earlier this year.
"Many of us who loathe the idea of a [U.S. border] wall were willing to go forward with a wall in order to get justice for the Dreamers," Wyden said.
Another Democrat, Tim Kaine of Virginia, conceded that court orders preserving DACA may lessen the impetus for Congress to take action on immigration at all.
"That can be a concern," Kaine said. "But the issue is more about the anxiety of all the affected people [DACA beneficiaries]. And I think anybody who is a Dreamer is going to view this [court order] as a positive. It's going to reduce their anxiety."