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US federal judge blocks Trump decision on DACA

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Dreamers protest in front of the Senate side of the US Capitol to urge Congress to pass the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, on December 6, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by AFP)

A US federal judge in the state of California has temporarily blocked President Donald Trump’s administration from ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that protects young immigrants from deportation.

Judge William Alsup said Tuesday that the immigration policy established by the administration of former President Barack Obama must remain in place while litigation over Trump’s decision to end the program plays out.

In his ruling, Alsup said the US Department of Homeland Security's "decision to rescind DACA was based on a flawed legal premise."

As a result, DACA recipients who failed to renew their status by last year’s deadline will have a chance to submit renewal applications.

However, the ruling is limited and does not allow new applications, for those who have never before received DACA protections, to be submitted.

"Dreamers' lives were thrown into chaos when the Trump Administration tried to terminate the DACA program without obeying the law," said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, referring to DACA recipients. "Today's ruling is a huge step in the right direction."

The Trump administration announced in September that it would end the program that has provided protection from deportation and the right to work legally to nearly 800,000 young people since it was authorized by Obama in 2012.

However, during a meeting earlier on Tuesday with Republicans and Democrats to discuss immigration issues, Trump appeared willing to negotiate a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants, a move that surprised both Democrats and Republicans.

“My head is spinning with all the things that were said by the president and others in that room in the course of an hour and a half,” Democrat Senator Richard Durbin, said, according to The New York Times.

During the meeting, President Trump also appeared to support Democrat Senator Diane Feinstein’s call for a clean DACA bill, which would push off dealing with issues like border security until later.

In a tweet Tuesday evening, though, he once again emphasized his resolve on the border wall, saying that a southern border wall must be part of any “DACA approval.”

Administration blasts judge ruling

The White House called the California federal judge’s decision as "outrageous" on Wednesday, hours after the move introduced a new complication to talks on immigration between the administration and Congress.

"We find this decision to be outrageous, especially in light of the President's successful bipartisan meeting with House and Senate members at the White House on the same day," White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.

Sanders criticized the judiciary’s involvement in the process of deciding DACA’s fate and said, "an issue of this magnitude must go through the normal legislative process.”

"President Trump is committed to the rule of law, and will work with members of both parties to reach a permanent solution that corrects the unconstitutional actions taken by the last administration," her statement read.

What is DACA?

DACA is an executive action taken by Obama that allowed undocumented immigrants who came to the US under the age of 16 to apply for protection from deportation. After a background check, those individuals were able to get renewable two-year permits to work and study in the US, as well.

Since it went into effect in 2012, roughly 800,000 people were protected by the program, and roughly 700,000 had active DACA protections in September, when the Trump administration announced its end.

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.

Opponents of DACA argue that it rewards illegal immigration.

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