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  • Washington Highlights

    Federal Court Grants Provisional Relief for Current DACA Awardees

    Frank Trinity, Chief Legal Officer

    In a case brought by the Regents of the University of California against the Department of Homeland Security challenging the Trump Administration’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, the Northern District of California Jan. 9 granted Plaintiffs’ motion for provisional relief, ordering the federal government to maintain DACA on a nationwide basis as it operated on Sept. 5, 2017 (the date of its rescission), with several exceptions.

    The court ruled that the Sept. 5 rescission was arbitrary because it relied on an erroneous opinion of Attorney General Jeff Sessions regarding the underlying legality of the DACA program [see Washington Highlights, Sept. 8, 2017]. The court also rejected the government’s alternative justification for the rescission — that it was trying to manage an orderly wind-down of the program to avoid the prospect of a successful legal challenge to the DACA program.

    The court recognized the “reliance interest” among DACA recipients, their employers, their colleges, and their communities, and criticized the government for not documenting its consideration of these interests in its decision-making process. AAMC Sr. Director for Student Affairs and Programs Geoffrey Young, PhD, submitted an Oct. 26 declaration in the case describing the reliance interests among medical students and AAMC member institutions.

    Specifically, the court ordered the government to allow individuals with DACA status to renew their enrollments. However, the court’s order does not require the government to process new applications for DACA status and it expressly permits the government to deny individuals with DACA status permission to travel overseas and then return to the U.S. (“advance parole”). It also allows the government to exercise “fair discretion” in deciding individual applications for renewal of DACA status.

    The order directs the government to post “reasonable public notice” about the process for renewal applications. As of press time, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website still indicated “DACA is ending,” but noted, “This page contains information that is no longer current but remains on our site for reference purposes.” There is no information yet about reinstating a process for renewal applications.

    The California case is one of several challenges to the Government’s decision to rescind the DACA program. Other courts could issue rulings in the near future.

    As graduating medical students with DACA status and teaching hospitals head into the final steps of the 2018 Match, the AAMC Dec. 13 led 60 health professions organizations in urging Congress to pass a permanent legislative remedy “as soon as possible” [see Washington Highlights, Dec. 15, 2017].