US immigration

Trump bemoans ‘unfair’ court after judge protects young US immigrants from deportation

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 January, 2018, 2:43pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 January, 2018, 6:11am

President Donald Trump has complained of the “unfair” US judicial system after a court blocked his attempt to end a programme protecting young immigrants – known as “dreamers” – from deportation.

US District Judge William Alsup granted a request by California and other plaintiffs to temporarily prevent the cancellation of the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme while lawsuits play out in court.

Alsup sits on the largely liberal 9th Circuit, which last year repeatedly slapped down Trump’s attempt to enact a ban on visitors from several Muslim-majority countries.

Venting his frustration on Twitter, Trump wrote: “It just shows everyone how broken and unfair our Court System is when the opposing side in a case (such as DACA) always runs to the 9th Circuit and almost always wins before being reversed by higher courts.”

Alsup said lawyers in favour of DACA clearly showed that the young immigrants “were likely to suffer serious, irreparable harm” without court action. The judge also said the lawyers have a strong chance of succeeding at trial.

DACA has protected about 800,000 people who were brought to the US illegally as children or came with families who overstayed visas. The programme includes hundreds of thousands of college-age students.

Earlier Tuesday, President Donald Trump and congressional leaders from both parties met at the White House to discuss the DACA programme and other immigration issues as they sought a bipartisan deal to avoid a government shutdown, which could occur in 10 days.

Trump suggested that an immigration agreement could be reached by addressing young immigrants and border security with what he called a “bill of love”, then by making comprehensive changes that have long eluded Congress.

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced in September that the programme would be phased out, saying former president Barack Obama had exceeded his authority when he implemented it in 2012.

The move sparked a flurry of lawsuits nationwide.

Alsup considered five separate lawsuits filed in Northern California, including one by the California and three other states, and another by the governing board of the University of California school system.

“DACA covers a class of immigrants whose presence, seemingly all agree, pose the least, if any, threat and allows them to sign up for honest labour on the condition of continued good behaviour,” Alsup wrote in his decision. “This has become an important programme for DACA recipients and their families, for the employers who hire them, for our tax treasuries, and for our economy.”

That echoed the judge’s comments from a court hearing on December 20, when he grilled an attorney for the Department of Justice over the government’s justification for ending DACA, saying many people had come to rely on it and faced a “real” and “palpable” hardship from its loss.

Alsup also questioned whether the administration had conducted a thorough review before ending the programme.

Brad Rosenberg, a Justice Department lawyer, said the administration considered the effects of ending DACA and decided to phase it out over time instead of cutting it immediately.

DACA recipients will be allowed to stay in the US for the remainder of their two-year authorisations. Any recipient whose status was due to expire within six months also got a month to apply for another two-year term.

The Justice Department said in court documents that DACA was facing the possibility of an abrupt end by court order, but Alsup was critical of that argument.

People took out loans, enrolled in school and even made decisions about whether to get married and start families on the basis of DACA and now face “horrific” consequences from the loss of the programme, said Jeffrey Davidson, a lawyer for the University of California governing board.

“The government considered none of this at all when they decided to rescind DACA,” he said at the hearing.

DACA recipients are commonly referred to as “dreamers,” based on never-passed proposals in Congress called the DREAM Act that would have provided similar protections for young immigrants.

“Dreamers lives were thrown into chaos when the Trump Administration tried to terminate the DACA programme without obeying the law,” California Attorney General Becerra said in a statement after Tuesday’s decision. “Tonight’s ruling is a huge step in the right direction.”