Federal Court Orders DACA Program Restored in WIRAC Case

Susanna Evarts ’18 and Emily Villano ’19 addressing the press outside of a WIRAC case hearing on DACA in federal court in Brooklyn.

Today, in the Batalla Vidal v. Wolf lawsuit, a federal court ordered the Trump administration to restore the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to its 2012 original form — reopening DACA to first-time applicants, restoring work authorization and renewals to two years, and making travel on advance parole more widely available to DACA recipients.

The development marks the latest win in a series of victories led by the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic and partners to protect Dreamers. The decision follows a federal court’s finding that a July memo issued by Chad Wolf, who claimed to be the Acting Secretary of Homeland Security, was issued without legal authority because he was unlawfully appointed. In addition, the court had also granted plaintiffs’ request to be certified as the representatives of a nationwide class of approximately one million DACA-eligible individuals across the country.

LISTEN: Clinical Associate Professor of Law Marisol Orihuela ’08 and Medha Swaminathan ’22 speak to WNPR about the victory to protect DACA recipients.

“Immigrant youth have resisted this cruel administration’s continuous attacks, and once more we have won,” said Johana Larios, plaintiff in Batalla Vidal v. Wolf and member of Make the Road New York. “Now, first-time applicants like me will be able to have access to the DACA program and current recipients will be able to breathe a little easier as DACA is restored to its original form. I am now able to look forward to returning to school, and feel safe that I won’t be separated from my community.”

“Today’s ruling culminates years of organizing by immigrant youth and marks an enormous victory in the battle to protect DACA,” said Armando Ghinaglia ’21, a law student intern with WIRAC. “For the first time since the Trump Administration’s attempts to end DACA in 2017, the government must accept new first-time applications for DACA.”

The named plaintiffs are Martín Batalla Vidal, Antonio Alarcón, Eliana Fernandez, Carolina Fung Feng, Carlos Vargas, Johana Larios, M.B.F., Ximena Zamora, Sonia Molina, and Make the Road New York. The class is represented by WIRAC, part of the Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization at Yale Law School, Make the Road New York, and the National Immigration Law Center.

WIRAC and partners were the first in the nation to file a legal challenge to the DACA rescission in 2017, and secured a monumental win in the Supreme Court in June 2020 when the High Court ruled that the termination of the DACA program in 2017 violated federal law.

After the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Trump administration’s unlawful attempt to terminate DACA, another federal court in Maryland ordered the government to restore DACA to its original terms. Instead, Chad Wolf, purportedly serving as the Acting Secretary of Homeland Security, issued a memorandum in July prohibiting first-time DACA applications, cutting renewals from two years to one, and drastically curtailing the ability of DACA recipients to travel abroad on advance parole.

In August, DACA-eligible youth, first-time applicants and DACA recipients filed a legal challenge against the July 2020 memo, arguing that it unlawfully and drastically altered the program, and that it was issued without legal authority. Following this latest decision, all eligible individuals are encouraged to consult with an immigration attorney to apply or renew their DACA immediately.

Kamal Essaheb, Deputy Director of the National Immigration Law Center and former DACA recipient, stated: “More than a million DACA-eligible youth have just been granted the opportunity and freedom to thrive in this country that is their home. We celebrate this latest victory with our courageous plaintiffs, and look ahead to a new pro-immigrant administration under President-elect Biden, and a permanent fix for DACA youth on day one of his administration.”

Javier. H. Valdés, Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York, organizational plaintiff in the case, said: “The court’s decision marks another victory for undocumented youth. Since its inception, the Trump administration has tried to terminate DACA and has left hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients and DACA-eligible youth in limbo. We have now defeated them again. As we celebrate this victory, we look forward to ensuring that the incoming Biden administration provides not only permanent protection for DACA recipients, but an overhaul of out-of-control enforcement and a path to citizenship for the millions of undocumented people in this country.”

The Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic, a part of the Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization at Yale School, represents immigrants, low-wage workers, and their organizations in labor, immigration, civil rights, and other matters.

For further information on the case and for forthcoming resources for class members, visit: dacaclassaction.org.

UPDATE, 12/7/20: Following WIRAC Win, Government Publishes Notice of DACA Restoration