Courts Give Trump a Possible Path Through a Legal Minefield on Immigration
Critics of Mr. Trump say they still believe the courts will rule against the president and declare his efforts unconstitutional.
Lower courts have blocked most of the president’s three attempts to write a travel ban, saying they violate either the immigration laws barring discrimination in the issuance of visas or the Constitution’s prohibition on religious discrimination. The Supreme Court’s decision in the travel ban case is expected in June.
“Over all, what the administration has been trying to do is contrary to the law,” said Omar Jadwat, the director of the Immigrants’ Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union, one of the groups that sued to stop the president’s first travel ban. “That’s what the courts should continue to hold.”
Mr. Jadwat said he believes the administration will lose in its legal appeals.
“There continues to be case after case where the administration violates the law and the courts say you can’t do that,” Mr. Jadwat said. “We will keep seeing that, I wager.”
Mr. Trump’s efforts to restrict immigration and increase deportations of undocumented immigrants began days after he took office when he signed the first temporary ban on travel from several mostly Muslim countries.
That ban was imposed with no notice and little discussion among federal agencies. A flurry of court rulings blocking the ban led Mr. Trump to abandon it in favor of a second version, which was also blocked by courts.
It wasn’t until the president’s third attempt that he found some legal success. While lower-court judges again sought to block the restrictions, the Supreme Court let the ban go into effect while it considered the case. And on Wednesday, the justices appeared inclined to uphold the president’s action, given his powers over immigration and national security, and to discount his campaign promises to impose a “Muslim ban.”
The president has also been fighting a legal battle over his decision to end the DACA program, which President Barack Obama put in place in 2012. The program allows young immigrants who were brought illegally to the United States as children to live and work without the fear of deportation.
About 700,000 immigrants signed up for the program, which requires them to renew every two years.
As a candidate and as president, Mr. Trump said DACA was an unconstitutional abuse of presidential power and vowed to end it. In September, he followed through, saying he would end the program by March and was acting on behalf of “the millions of Americans victimized by this unfair system.”
Courts intervened to save the program much the same way judges had blocked Mr. Trump’s actions on the travel ban. Within weeks of the March deadline, judges ordered the president to continue renewing participation in the program for those who had already enrolled.
On Tuesday, Judge John D. Bates of Federal District Court for the District of Columbia went one step further, saying that government officials must also allow new applicants to sign up for protections offered by DACA.
But Judge Bates, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, said that he had ruled against the Trump administration because it had not offered a rationale for why the program should be ended. The decision to rescind DACA, he wrote in his decision, “was predicated primarily on its legal judgment that the program was unlawful.” He added, “That legal judgment was virtually unexplained, however, and so it cannot support” the administration’s decision.
The judge was explicit in laying out a way that Mr. Trump could move forward, and all but urged the secretary of homeland security to submit within 90 days a more complete explanation of the administration’s rationale. If the administration fails to do so, the judge said it must fully restart the program.
If the administration does submit a rationale acceptable to the judge, it’s possible that at least one court would allow it to end DACA this summer. That could come soon after a favorable ruling on the travel ban case at the end of June.
“Is it conceivable that this president could figure out harsh and unfair things to do that are legal within the letter of the law? Sure,” Mr. Jadwat said. But he added, “It’s not actually that easy to go back and do it over.”
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, on Wednesday called Judge Bates’s ruling “extraordinarily broad and wrong on the law” and said it would serve as an incentive to attract more illegal immigration to the United States.
“This ruling is good news for smuggling organizations and criminal networks, and horrible news for our national security,” Ms. Sanders told reporters.
News credit : Nytimes