WASHINGTON – The Trump administration is seeking a fast track to the Supreme Court in hopes of reversing a federal judge's order to restart a popular program allowing young, undocumented immigrants to remain in the United States.
The Justice Department announced Tuesday that it will appeal U.S. District Judge William Alsup's decision both to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit and to the Supreme Court — something it admitted was a rare step. In the meantime, it did not ask either court to block Alsup's ruling.
The strategy appears aimed both at a speedy final resolution to the legal battle over DACA — the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — and a friendlier court. The high court has allowed other Trump administration policies to continue, most notably his immigration travel ban, over federal court rejections.
“It defies both law and common sense for DACA ... to somehow be mandated nationwide by a single district court in San Francisco,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said.
"We are now taking the rare step of requesting direct review on the merits of this injunction by the Supreme Court so that this issue may be resolved quickly and fairly for all the parties involved.”
Faced with last week's decision, the administration on Saturday announced that it would resume accepting renewal applications from immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. Alsup's ruling did not require that it accept new applicants.
The administration announced last September that the program, begun by president Barack Obama in 2012, would end unless it was renewed by Congress within six months.
Since then, negotiations have been tied up with the federal budget and other issues — most recently Trump's description of some Third World countries as "shitholes," which further set back talks. Trump has demanded tighter border enforcement, including building a wall along the Mexican border.
The DACA program has protected about 800,000 "DREAMers" whose illegal status wasn't their fault. It has enabled them to avoid deportation and to gain work permits.
In his ruling, Alsup granted a request by California, the University of California system, and several California cities to block the phaseout while their lawsuit challenging the termination plays out in court. He said those already approved for protection and work permits must be allowed to renew them before they expire.
Alsup said the challengers were likely to succeed by claiming that the Trump administration's decision to end the program was "arbitrary and capricious" and based on a flawed legal premise. He said the plaintiffs would be harmed, in part through economic disruptions and the loss of tax revenue caused by the DREAMers' departure.
Sessions announced on Sept. 5 that the program would be phased out six months later, based on the administration's view that it was illegally enacted without action by Congress. Trump then urged lawmakers to come up with a permanent solution. But four months have passed, and a deal has remained elusive.
About 800,000 DREAMers have been approved for protection since the program started accepting applications in 2012. As of September, about 690,000 were enrolled.