DOJ presses Supreme Court to reverse DACA ruling

The U.S. Department of Justice announced Tuesday it will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a decision by a federal judge in San Francisco to keep protections for undocumented young people in place for the time being.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup last week issued a preliminary injunction temporarily blocking the administration of President Donald Trump from canceling the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said lawyers from his office will ask the Supreme Court later this week to take up the case. If the high court agrees to do so, the dispute would bypass the normal intermediate review by a federal appeals court.

Sessions said in a statement:

“We are now taking the rare step of requesting direct review on the merits of this injunction by the Supreme Court so that this issue may be resolved quickly and fairly for all the parties involved.”

The Department of Justice also filed a notice of appeal today with an intermediate court, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

The DACA program, established by President Barack Obama in 2012, now covers 689,000 people, according to Alsup’s Jan. 9 ruling. It allows undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children to apply for deferment of deportation and authorization to work, renewable every two years.

In September, the Trump Administration announced it was canceling the program on a phased basis and that DACA recipients could not renew documents expiring after March 5. Thus, up to 1,000 people per day could lose deportation protection beginning March 6, Alsup estimated.

Unless the Supreme Court or 9th Circuit overturns it, Alsup’s preliminary injunction will remain in effect until he holds a full trial on five lawsuits that challenged the program’s cancellation.

On Saturday, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that in accordance with the injunction, it is resuming acceptance of renewal applications from current DACA recipients. Alsup’s order does not require the agency to accept new applications, however.

Alsup said in his decision that Sessions’ conclusion that the DACA program was illegal was based on a “mistake of law.” The judge said that previous use of deferred immigration action by the executive branch “has been blessed by both the Supreme Court and Congress as a means to exercise enforcement discretion.”

The lawsuits pending before Alsup were filed by the University of California; the states of California, Maine, Maryland and Minnesota; the city of San Jose; six individuals; and Santa Clara County together with the Service Employees International Union.

Two other lawsuits are pending in federal court in New York.

A possible measure to continue DACA is also being debated in the current budget negotiations in Congress.