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Federal Court Invalidates Trump Admin’s ‘Arbitrary and Capricious’ Effort to End DACA


The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled Friday that the Trump Administration’s decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was unlawfully “arbitrary and capricious,” because the Administration failed to offer any plausible explanation for the determination.

1. The court vacated DACA’s rescission as “arbitrary and capricious.”

In overturning the district court’s decision granting the government’s request for summary judgment, the court reviewed the government’s decision under the most deferential standard of review, with a “presumption highly in favor of finding the agency’s action valid.”

However, the court held that in rescinding DACA, the government failed to articulate even a rational connection between the facts and their choice as required by law. The government’s stated reasoning was that DACA was unlawful but failed to identify “any statutory provision with which the DACA policy conflicts.”

The court stated that, prior to making their decision, the government had an analysis from the legal department affirming the legality of DACA, only to change course, without providing any explanation.

The court cited to a case (Jimenez-Cedillo), which quoted an Encino Motorcars case.

“An ‘unexplained inconsistency’ in agency policy indicates that the agency’s action is arbitrary and capricious, and therefore unlawful,” the quote said.

2. The government is not barred from using the information provided by DACA recipients in certain immigration enforcement.

The ruling, however, overturned the district court’s ruling preventing the government from using DACA recipients’ information for all immigration enforcement action.  The court reasoned that the government never promised nor suggested in any way that its policies governing the sharing of information provided by applicants would remain unchanged.

“Rather, the government warned DACA applicants that information they provided could be used for immigration enforcement where criteria for commencement of removal proceedings or referral to law enforcement for a determination whether to commence such proceedings were met,” the ruling said.

3. The Fourth Circuit’s ruling could be overturned if reviewed by the Supreme Court.

Because the court ruled that the government’s decision was “arbitrary and capricious,” the government is not required to show anything other than a rational connection that their decision was based on some analysis of facts. The decision was based on the fact that the government didn’t even try to argue why DACA was unlawful, but instead just offered the court its own conclusory statement despite its own legal office saying otherwise.

Essentially, the “arbitrary and capricious” standard requires only that an agency demonstrate that it engaged in some form of reasoned decision-making. It follows that the government could show this on appeal by providing an adequately rational explanation for its decision.

[Image via SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.