In the biggest setback yet for the Trump administration in its decision to end a program that protects undocumented young adults from deportation, a federal judge ruled Tuesday that the government must resume accepting new applications.
Judge John D. Bates of U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia said that the government's decision to end the program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, was predicated on the "virtually unexplained" grounds that the program is "unlawful."
The judge stayed his decision for 90 days, giving the Department of Homeland Security the opportunity to better explain its reasoning for canceling the program.
The department, the judge wrote in his decision, "must accept and process new as well as renewal DACA applications."
DACA was officially rescinded by the government in March but the program has continued to accept renewals after previous court orders. About 700,000 unauthorized immigrants, the majority of them brought to the United States as children, had signed up for the Obama-era program since it was created in 2012.
Advocates hailed the ruling, saying it highlighted the failure of the administration to justify terminating the program.
"This decision verifies the Trump administration failed to prove the DACA program is illegal," said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, a Washington, D.C. advocacy organization. "Either President Trump finds another way to end the program, tossing hundreds of thousands of young people into deportation proceedings, or he works with Republicans and Democrats to find a legislative solution that secures our border and ensures Dreamers continue contributing to our economy."