U.S. judges weigh fate of program protecting young immigrants

Protestors demonstrate against the termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program outside the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena, California, U.S. May 15, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Tuesday a panel of 3 appeals court judges in California  asked the federal government to defend its decision to end a program protecting from deportation some immigrants who came to the United States illegally as children, who are often referred to as “Dreamers.”

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals must rule on whether to uphold a lower court’s nationwide injunction ordering the government to keep the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in place while litigation challenging its termination proceeds.

The Trump administrationn  announced in September it would scrap the 2012 program launched by former President Barack Obama, and said it was up to Congress to find a legislative solution.

The Admininstration was sued by several plaintiffs, including the University of California, which enrolls many DACA recipients, and in January, U.S. District Judge William Alsup in San Francisco issued the injunction. A judge in Brooklyn, New York, made a similar finding, and a judge in Washington, D.C., gave the government extra time to explain its reasoning.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the program was unlawful when he announced the end of DACA, a position the appeals court judges asked attorneys for the government to explain on Tuesday.

Deputy Assistant Attorney General Hashim Mooppan responded that it was within the government’s discretion to decide the fate of the program.

Plaintiffs attorneys challenging DACA’s termination argued that while Obama was clearly within his rights to establish the program, its end robbed hundreds of thousands of young immigrants of protections they had come to rely on.

And some 30 DACA supporters gathered in a rose garden, shouting slogans in Spanish and English.

The panel of judges, all appointed by Democratic presidents, could issue its decision at any time. The Supreme Court, which in February declined a request to weigh in before the appellate court, said at the time it assumed the appeals court would rule swiftly.