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Federal Judge Orders Full Restoration Of DACA -- And That New Applicants Be Admitted

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DACA recipients and their supporters rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on June 18, 2020 in Washington, DC. On Thursday morning, the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, denied the Trump administration's attempt to end DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
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A federal judge in New York has ordered that the Trump administration restore the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to its status before the Trump administration attempted to end it in September of 2017.

The program, known as DACA, has been in limbo since then, kept alive by the courts, but not open to new applicants. DACA allows young immigrants who are in the U.S. without legal status but were brought here as children to live and work in the country legally.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled this past June that DACA may continue, but the Trump administration pushed back with new restrictions. In July, acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf issued a memo refusing to accept new applicants, and forcing DACA recipients to renew once a year instead of every two years, as the program had worked.

Last month, a federal judge issued a ruling invalidating Wolf's memo, concluding that the acting Homeland Security secretary was not properly appointed and did not have the legal authority to make these changes.

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Today's ruling directs Homeland Security to open the program to new applicants and restore the two-year renewal period for DACA protection and work permits. From the ruling:

DHS is DIRECTED to post a public notice, within 3 calendar days of this Order, to be 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, renewal requests, and advance parole requests, based on the terms of the DACA program prior to September 5, 2017, and in accordance with this court's Memorandum & Order of November 14, 2020.

Luis Perez, director of legal services for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, said Friday that it remains to be seen how U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency that handles DACA applications, will respond.

"My fear is, this is great news, but we still need to see whether USCIS listens to the order of this federal court to start taking initial applications, because they've defied the Supreme Court when they were told to do so back in June."

This summer, after the Supreme Court ruling and before the Wolf memo was issued, the federal government did not provide guidance to would-be new applicants. Perez pointed out that there's also a pending legal challenge to DACA in Texas, where a hearing is set for later this month.

The Obama-era program, begun in 2012, protects hundreds of thousands of young immigrants from deportation, including an estimated 200,000 in California. President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to reinstate DACA in his immigration plan.

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*This story has been updated.

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