Federal Appeals Court Rules Against Trump On Ending DACA

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has dealt another legal setback to the Trump Administration's efforts to end the DACA program,

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the Administration’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was improper due to the fact that it was ‘arbitrary and capricious’ and without any legal or factual merit as required by law:

A federal appeals court ruled Friday that the Trump administration had been “arbitrary and capricious” in its bid to end an Obama-era program that shields young undocumented immigrants from deportation.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit partially reversed an earlier ruling in the case brought by the immigrant advocacy organization CASA de Maryland.

In a 2-to-1 decision, the court said the government had failed to “give a reasoned explanation for the change in policy, particularly given the significant” interests involved, according to the majority opinion written by Judge Albert Diaz and joined by Judge Robert King.

The decision is similar to one reached by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. The Trump administration has asked the Supreme Court to intervene. But the request has been pending for months, and the justices have stopped putting the case on their weekly discussion list.

It is expected that the Supreme Court will have to deliver the final word on the program, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, most likely in the term that begins in October. It could be that the justices are waiting for all of the appeals courts considering the issue to weigh in; another case challenging the administration’s DACA decision has been argued in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

In the case decided Friday, Judge Julius N. Richardson said in his dissent that the administration had acted within its authority and noted the limited role of the judiciary.

“It is not our place to second-guess the wisdom of the discretionary decisions made by the other branches. The rescission of DACA was a controversial and contentious decision, but one that was committed to the executive branch,” wrote Richardson, who was recently named to the court by President Trump. Diaz was nominated by President Barack Obama, and King by President Bill Clinton.

The Justice Department declined to comment on the ruling Friday.

“We recognize the struggle is not over and there are more battles to fight in the Supreme Court on this road to justice, but our families are emboldened by knowing that they are on the right side of history — the only question is whether all this country’s institutions can be certain of the same,” said Gustavo Torres, executive director of CASA de Maryland, the immigrant organization that was the lead plaintiff in the case.

This Fourth Circuit ruling reversed in part an earlier decision from a Maryland District Court Judge who upheld the Trump Administration’s decision to end the DACA program while at the same time denouncing the President’s rhetoric on the topic. Specifically, the Judge criticized the President for his “unfortunate and often inflammatory rhetoric,” and said that if he were approaching the issue as a legislator rather than a Judge, he would decide the issue differently. Despite that admonishment, Trump praised the decision on his Twitter feed, claiming victory in the ongoing legal battle over the fate of the DACA notwithstanding the fact that a nationwide injunction imposed on Trump’s Executive Order by a Federal District Court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

With the exception of that ruling from the Federal District Court in Maryland, though, the Administration’s decision to end the DACA program has not fared so well in Court over the past two years.

In January 2018, a District Court Judge in San Francisco ruled that the Administration’s efforts to repeal the program violated the law and issued an injunction barring the program from going into effect. That ruling was followed roughly a month later by a ruling from a second Federal Judge in Maryland who issued a similar ruling on much the same grounds as his colleague in San Francisco. In October 2018, a Federal Judge in New York City denied a motion seeking to dismiss a similar lawsuit against the Trump Administration order in a ruling that cited many of the same grounds as the previous two orders and which also cited in support of its conclusions rhetoric from the President both in his speeches and in his Tweets. Several months after this, in what many saw as a major setback for the Administration, the Supreme Court declined to disturb the injunction in the San Francisco case, meaning that the government was forced to go through the Ninth Circuit to appeal that case.

In April of last year a District Court Judge in Washington, D.C. issued yet another ruling placing a hold on the Administration’s attempt to bring an end to the DACA program. That ruling was significant in that it differed in one significant respect from the previous respects. Specifically, in addition to keeping the program in place, the ruling also directed the Trump Administration to begin accepting new applicants again.

Finally and most recently prior to the Fourth Circuit’s ruling, the Ninth Circuit largely upheld the decision issued in January of last year by Judge William Alsop and kept in place a nationwide injunction barring enforcement of the Administration’s decision for the time being. That decision was appealed to the Supreme Court and, as noted, remains pending before the Justices who have yet to decide if they will take the case or not. As suggested, it may be that the Court is waiting for all the pending cases to get before it before deciding on whether or not to take up the issue. In any case, if the Justices do take these cases up it will likely not be heard until some time in the term that begins in October and ends in June 2020 just before the start of the General Election.

Here’s the Fourth Circuit’s opinion:

Casa de Maryland Et Al v. D… by on Scribd

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, Law and the Courts, US Constitution, US Politics, , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Gustopher says:

    The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the Administration’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was improper due to the fact that it was ‘arbitrary and capricious’ and without any legal or factual merit as required by law

    Honest question: why was the implementation of DACA by the Obama administration not “arbitrary and capricious”?

    I think I am not alone among the readers of this blog in not understanding the legal definitions and implications of this term.