DACA recipients risking arrest outside Trump Tower earlier this month. (Scott Heins/Gothamist)
Brooklyn Federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis tore into Justice Department lawyers in court on Tuesday, after the Trump Administration’s legal team defended the president’s decision to cease Deferred Action for Child Arrivals renewals on October 5th.
“This is a democracy, these people have thrived in America, and you can’t just come into court and espouse a position that is so heartless,” Garaufis said, according to the NY Post. “I’m 68 years old, and I’ve worked in every branch of government, and I’ve never seen a position like this.”
“It’s unacceptable, quite frankly, to me, as a human being and as an American. I’m just glad I was born in Paterson, New Jersey, and not in Mexico City,” he added.
Justice Department lawyer Brett Shumate said in court that the decision to hold the October 5th deadline was “not made lightly,” but is necessary for an “orderly wind down” of DACA, according to the Daily News.
Tuesday marked the second hearing this month in a class action lawsuit brought by Make the Road New York, the National Immigration Law Center, the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic at Yale Law School and six DACA recipients. The groups are challenging the lawfulness of President Donald Trump’s decision to rescind DACA, which provides temporary deportation relief and work permits to people who immigrated to the United States as children. Trump is also pressuring Congress to replace the Obama-era program by March 5th of next year.
New York State has approximately 42,000 DACA recipients, according to the State. Nationally, the program has an estimated 800,000 recipients.
The class action does not address the October 5th deadline for renewals, making Garaufis’s position on that point purely advisory. But Tuesday’s hearing was also a success for the plaintiffs, according to Make the Road Legal Director Amy Taylor.
“The real victory of yesterday is the court adopted our schedule for discovery and briefing and agreed to move the case along quickly and rejected the government’s [arguments],” she said. “That was enormous for us.”
According to Taylor, Make the Road is planning to review “all of the internal memos and communications around the termination” of DACA. This will ideally include papers from the Department of Justice as well as the Department of Homeland Security.
“We are arguing that the government can’t rescind this program without laying out a rationale, and that rationale can’t be a discriminatory one,” Taylor added. “We believe they are doing this to harm Latinos and Mexicans.”
Make the Road’s ultimate goal is to block Trump’s DACA action before March 5th. Their suit is distinct from another brought by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and attorneys general in 14 other states, but both lawsuits are before Judge Garaufis. The University of California also sued the Trump Administration this month, led by UC President Janet Napolitano, who helped draft DACA in 2012.
Make the Road’s current complaint is an amended version of a lawsuit first filed in August 2016, on behalf of DACA recipient Martín Batalla Vidal. The group initially sought to overturn a 2015 ruling by a federal judge in Texas that blocked Obama’s attempt to expand DACA relief. The updated DACA would have protected its recipients from deportation for three years, rather than two. It was also open to anyone over the age of 15, eliminating a previously-enforced age limit.
Batalla Vidal moved to New York City from Mexico when he was seven years old. He works in a nursing home to support his mother, according to Taylor. His new co-plaintiffs are in their 20s and 30s, and include two Make the Road paralegals, a youth immigration organizer, and an adult literacy teacher. One of the paralegals owns a home and has two American-born children.
“We’ll be moving forward quickly, and we also know there will be individuals missing the October 5th deadline, so we may seek emergency relief in the meantime,” Taylor said.
Both parties are due back in court January 18th.