US judge blocks Trump move to end DACA program for immigrants

SAN FRANCISCO/WASHINGTON, Jan 9 (Reuters) - A U.S. judge in San Francisco temporarily barred President Donald Trump's administration on Tuesday from ending a program shielding young people brought to the United States illegally by their parents from deportation.

The Trump administration announced in September it would rescind Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, a decision that was challenged in multiple federal courts by a variety of Democratic state attorneys general, organizations and individuals.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup ruled in San Francisco on Tuesday the program must remain in place while the litigation is resolved. The ruling could complicate negotiations between Trump and congressional leaders over immigration reform.

18 PHOTOS
Faces of those impacted by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
See Gallery
Faces of those impacted by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
Paulina, 26, a DACA recipient, is comforted after watching U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions' announcement on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program on a projection screen at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA) headquarters in Los Angeles, California, U.S., September 5, 2017. Paulina, a graduate of UCLA, arrived in the U.S. when she was 6 years old. She said the decision was really upsetting but she was going to continue to work to push members of Congress to enact a law to protect their rights. "We are not going to give up", she said. REUTERS/Monica Almeida
Young DACA recipients, Mario, Melanie and Luis, watch U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions' announcement on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, on a projection screen at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA) headquarters in Los Angeles, California, U.S., September 5, 2017. REUTERS/Monica Almeida
Jorge-Mario Cabrera, CHIRLA spokesman and Communications Director (R), along with staff and young DACA recipients watches U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions' announcement on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, on a projection screen at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA) headquarters in Los Angeles, California, U.S., September 5, 2017. REUTERS/Monica Almeida
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 18: A family fills out an application for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), at a workshop on February 18, 2015 in New York City. The immigrant advocacy group Make the Road New York holds weekly workshops to help immigrants get legal status under DACA to work in the United States. An expansion of the national program, scheduled for this week, was frozen by a ruling from a Texas federal judge. The Obama Administration plans to appeal the ruling and, if sussessful, DACA would allow legalization of up to two million immigrants who entered the United States before they were age 16. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 15: People attend an orientation class in filing up their application for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program at Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles on August 15, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. Under a new program established by the Obama administration undocumented youth who qualify for the program, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, can file applications from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website to avoid deportation and obtain the right to work. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 15: Mitzi Pena, 19, (R) her sister Yaretzi Pena, 5, and her cousin Karina Terriquez, 20, (L) wait in line to receive assitance in filing up their application for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program at Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles on August 15, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. Under a new program established by the Obama administration undocumented youth who qualify for the program, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, can file applications from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website to avoid deportation and obtain the right to work. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 15: People attend an orientation class in filing up their application for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program at Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles on August 15, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. Under a new program established by the Obama administration undocumented youth who qualify for the program, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, can file applications from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website to avoid deportation and obtain the right to work. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Edgar Lopez shows his Employment Authorization Card, at home in Davenport, Florida, February 1, 2013. Edgar and his brother Javier are among the 1.7 million estimated illegal immigrants younger than 30 who were brought to the U.S. as children and are eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. (Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda/Orlando Sentinel/MCT via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 15: Oscar Barrera Gonzalez along with a group of immigrants, known as DREAMers, hold flowers as they listen to a news conference to kick off a new program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles on August 15, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. Under a new program established by the Obama administration undocumented youth who qualify for the program, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, can file applications from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website to avoid deportation and obtain the right to work (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 15: Roberto Larios, 21, (R) holds Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival application as he waits in line with hundreds of fellow undocumanted immigrants at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles offices to apply for deportation reprieve on August 15, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. Under a new program established by the Obama administration undocumented youth who qualify for the program, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, can file applications from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website to avoid deportation and obtain the right to work (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 15: Brenda Robles, 20, (R) holds her high school diploma as she waits in line with her friends at at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles offices to apply for deportation reprieve on August 15, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. Under a new program established by the Obama administration undocumented youth who qualify for the program, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, can file applications from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website to avoid deportation and obtain the right to work (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 15: Hundreds of people line up around the block from the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles offices to apply for deportation reprieve on August 15, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. Under a new program established by the Obama administration undocumented youth who qualify for the program, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, can file applications from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website to avoid deportation and obtain the right to work (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Undocumented UCLA students Alejandra Gutierrez (L) and Miriam Gonzales attend a workshop for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in Los Angeles, California, August 15, 2012. President Barack Obama's administration announced on June 15 it would relax U.S. deportation rules so that many young illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children can stay in the country and work. The changes went into effect on Wednesday. REUTERS/Jonathan Alcorn (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS SOCIETY IMMIGRATION)
Alan Valdivia receives assistance in filling out paperwork for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles in Los Angeles, California, August 15, 2012. The U.S. government began accepting applications on Wednesday from young illegal immigrants seeking temporary legal status under relaxed deportation rules announced by the Obama administration in June. REUTERS/Jonathan Alcorn (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS SOCIETY IMMIGRATION)
People fill out paperwork for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles in Los Angeles, California, August 15, 2012. The U.S. government began accepting applications on Wednesday from young illegal immigrants seeking temporary legal status under relaxed deportation rules announced by the Obama administration in June.REUTERS/Jonathan Alcorn (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS SOCIETY IMMIGRATION)
Students wait in line for assistance with paperwork for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles in Los Angeles, California, August 15, 2012. The U.S. government began accepting applications on Wednesday from young illegal immigrants seeking temporary legal status under relaxed deportation rules announced by the Obama administration in June. REUTERS/Jonathan Alcorn (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS SOCIETY IMMIGRATION)
Undocumented UCLA students prepare paperwork for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in Los Angeles, California, August 15, 2012. President Barack Obama's administration announced on June 15 it would relax U.S. deportation rules so that many young illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children can stay in the country and work. The changes went into effect on Wednesday. REUTERS/Jonathan Alcorn (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS SOCIETY IMMIGRATION)
Paulina, 26, a DACA recipient during U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions' announcement on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, on a projection screen at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA) headquarters in Los Angeles, California, U.S., September 5, 2017. Paulina, a graduate of UCLA, arrived in the U.S. when she was 6 years old. She said the decision was really upsetting but she was going to continue to work to push members of Congress to enact a law to protect their rights. "We are not going to give up", she said. REUTERS/Monica Almeida
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

"Today’s order doesn’t change the Department of Justice’s position on the facts," said the department's spokesman Devin M. O’Malley. The department "will continue to vigorously defend this position," he said.

Alsup's decision follows a number of rulings by other U.S. judges seeking to rein in Trump's immigration policies, including decisions that limited administration moves against sanctuary cities and narrowed the scope of a ban against travel from some Muslim-majority counties.

Nearly 700,000 young people, known as Dreamers, were protected from deportation and allowed to work legally under the DACA program as of September 2017, Alsup's ruling said.

Alsup ruled that the federal government did not have to process new applications from people who had never before received protection under the program. However, he ordered the government to continue processing renewal applications from people who had previously been covered.

"DACA gave them a more tolerable set of choices, including joining the mainstream workforce," Alsup wrote. "Now, absent an injunction, they will slide back to the pre-DACA era and associated hardship."

The plaintiffs were likely to succeed in arguing that the government's decision to end DACA was arbitrary, Alsup ruled.

POSSIBLE LEGISLATION

Mark Rosenbaum, an attorney for Public Counsel, which represents six DACA recipients in the case, applauded the ruling. "These young people played by all the rules. They demonstrated they are no threat," he said.

"They are in the military; they are studying in school; they are creating jobs. Now the courts have told the government they have to play by the rules," Rosenbaum said.

Roy Beck, president of Numbers USA, which backs stricter immigration laws, dismissed the significance of the court's action, calling it "an aberration that surely will not be allowed to stand as it is appealed."

The ruling comes as Trump and U.S. congressional leaders are trying to hammer out immigration reforms, including whether and how to extend protections to young people who were covered by DACA.

Trump met lawmakers on Tuesday and said he would back a two-phased approach to overhauling U.S. immigration laws.

The first step would focus on protecting Dreamers from deportation, along with funding for a wall and other restrictions that Democrats have opposed.

Trump said he then favors moving quickly to address even more contentious issues, including a possible pathway to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants that is opposed by many Republicans and many of his supporters.

A representative for the White House could not be reached immediately after the ruling.

Trump ran on a hardline immigration platform during the 2016 presidential election, promising to end DACA and strengthen border protections to increase jobs for U.S. workers.

Todd Schulte, president of FWD.us, which advocates for protections for Dreamers, lamented on Twitter the continuing uncertainty for DACA recipients if Alsup's ruling is appealed.

"This makes it MORE urgent for Congress to act and end this chaos," he wrote. (Reporting by Dan Levine; Additional reporting by Mica Rosenberg and Richard Cowan; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore, Sue Horton and Paul Tait)

Read Full Story