A federal judge ruled Tuesday night against the Trump administration's decision to end a program protecting some young immigrants from deportation, calling the Department of Homeland Security's rationale against the program "arbitrary and capricious."
What's next? The judge gave DHS 90 days to "better explain its view that DACA is unlawful." If the department cannot come up with a better explanation, he wrote, it "must accept and process new as well as renewal DACA applications."
U.S. District Judge John D. Bates in Washington wrote that the decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, "was unlawful and must be set aside."
Bates wrote that DHS' decision "was predicated primarily on its legal judgment that the program was unlawful. That legal judgment was virtually unexplained, however, and so it cannot support the agency's decision."
DACA allowed immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children, known as Dreamers, to stay and work legally under renewable permits. President Donald Trump announced last year that he would end the program started by President Barack Obama. It was officially rescinded in March, but DHS is continuing to issue renewals because of previous court orders.
Bates' ruling Tuesday night comes in a pair of cases whose lead plaintiffs are the NAACP and Princeton University. He is the third judge to rule against administration plans to end the program.
Immigration policy will be a major issue in midterm elections this year.
Virtually all Democrats are poised to join a group of Republicans calling for House votes this election year on immigration, an effort that seems unlikely to succeed but would cast a campaign-season spotlight on an issue Democrats think will help their Election Day prospects.
Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., has gathered nearly 50 GOP co-sponsors on a procedural measure that would permit votes on four immigration bills. Those bills would include a conservative package that would limit legal immigration, a Democratic plan helping young "Dreamer" immigrants win citizenship and a bipartisan compromise.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has said he doesn't want the House to vote on immigration bills that President Donald Trump won't sign. Trump has backed the conservatives' proposal, but it lacks the votes needed to clear the House. If every Democrat joins Denham, that's enough for a House majority.