In Princeton-Microsoft case, court rules government acted unlawfully in rescinding DACA program

Ruling in a lawsuit brought by Princeton University, one of its undergraduate students and Microsoft, a federal judge in Washington, D.C., ruled Tuesday that the federal government's decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was unlawful.

As a result, the ruling by U.S. District Judge John D. Bates will require the government to accept new DACA applications and issue renewals unless the Department of Homeland Security can provide a valid rationale for ending the program or win an appeal of the court’s ruling within 90 days.

DACA permits undocumented students who arrived in the United States as children — commonly called "DREAMers" — to obtain protection from deportation, allowing them to continue their studies or work here.

"We are delighted that the court agreed with us that the government’s termination of the DACA program 'was unlawful and must be set aside,'" Princeton President Christopher L. Eisgruber said Tuesday evening. "As the court noted, 'neither the meager legal reasoning nor the assessment of litigation risk provided by [the Department of Homeland Security]' is enough to support the government’s decision to end the program. 

"While the decision does not fully resolve the uncertainty facing DACA beneficiaries, it unequivocally rejects the rationale the government has offered for ending the program and makes clear that the DHS acted arbitrarily and capriciously. 

"Princeton, higher education and our country benefit from the talent and aspirations that DREAMers bring to our communities," Eisgruber said. "We continue to urge Congress to enact a permanent solution that recognizes the contributions of Maria Perales Sanchez and other DREAMers, and offers them the protection and the certainty that they deserve."

Princeton, senior Maria De La Cruz Perales Sanchez and Microsoft filed suit Nov. 3, alleging that the termination of DACA violated both the United States Constitution and federal law. 

“DREAMers grew up in this country, attended our schools, pay taxes and contribute to our communities," Microsoft President Brad Smith said. "We hope this decision will help provide new incentive for the legislative solution the country and these individuals so clearly deserve. As the business community has come to appreciate, a lasting solution for the country’s DREAMers is both an economic imperative and a humanitarian necessity.”

The court combined the case with a similar lawsuit filed against the government by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and other organizations.

Perales Sanchez is a beneficiary of the DACA program. The complaint explained that the termination of DACA severely harms her and other DACA-enrolled young people, and “the employers and educational institutions that rely on and benefit from their contributions.”

Perales Sanchez said Tuesday night that "it’s been frustrating and disappointing to see minimal concrete action from policymakers to provide any permanent, holistic policy solution in the aftermath of the DACA repeal. It’s been even more taxing to fight for a policy we already had and that was taken away in an unfounded, purely capricious manner.

"Within that context, today’s decision left me with a variety of emotions. The better opinion would have been to immediately restore all of the original DACA, as the current decision prolongs the uncertainty that has terrorized undocumented youth once again," she said. "At the same time, I’m faithful that DACA’s constitutionality will be upheld, and I hope that soon DACA is available to new applicants. 

"While the news today brings some relief, I know that the fight for justice is unfortunately far from over, yet undocumented migrants are far from giving up."

In another statement Tuesday evening, NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson cited the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

"Dr. King was right when he said that the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” Johnson said. "Our nation made a promise to protect undocumented young immigrants and this administration attempted to renege on that promise, but justice prevailed.”