The order comes nearly a month since the Supreme Court blocked the Trump administration's attempt to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. That ruling emphasized that the administration failed to provide an adequate reason to justify scrapping DACA.
Judge Paul Grimm of the US District Court for the District of Maryland said Friday that the program is to be restored to its "pre-September 5, 2017 status," meaning the status quo before President Donald Trump tried to terminate it, thereby giving hundreds of thousands of DACA-eligible immigrants the opportunity to apply.
"We are extremely pleased and excited by Judge Grimm's order, but it's really just effectuating the decision the Supreme Court made a month ago," said Nick Katz, senior manager of legal services at CASA, which brought the lawsuit along with other immigrant rights group. "I hope this order makes it clear to (the Department of Homeland Security) that they can't delay any longer. They need to reopen the program."
US Citizenship and Immigration Services, part of the Department Homeland Security which administers DACA, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Amid the years-long legal proceedings, DACA recipients have been able to apply for renewal, but new immigrants who met the criteria couldn't apply.
To be eligible, applicants had to have arrived in the US before age 16 and have lived there since June 15, 2007. They could not have been older than 30 when the Department of Homeland Security enacted the policy in 2012. Recipients are required to renew their protections every two years. The program doesn't provide permanent protection or a pathway to citizenship.
It's unclear, however, how many people will feel comfortable applying, given that doing so requires turning over identifying information to an administration that immigrants have grown increasingly untrustworthy of.
Since the Supreme Court's ruling in June, Trump and senior administration officials have indicated they plan to try to phase out the program a second time.
Trump said on Twitter last month the administration would be submitting "enhanced papers," without providing additional details. Acting Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli retweeted Trump, saying the Department of Homeland Security was "on it."
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf also said earlier this month the administration has "rewritten a way to wind that program down." "This is for the President and is his decision at the end of the day but we are here to support," he told Fox News.
The administration could reissue memos dismantling the program, like it did in 2017, but officials would have to prove that the process wasn't rushed and that all considerations were taken into account. Any new attempts would likely face legal challenges.
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