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Fed. Judge Calls for Extension of DACA Deadlines as Lawmakers Seek Solution

By Noah Hurowitz | September 15, 2017 2:34pm
 Martin Batalla Vidal speaks outside Brooklyn federal court, where a judge encouraged the Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security to extend a deadline for DACA recipients.
Martin Batalla Vidal speaks outside Brooklyn federal court, where a judge encouraged the Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security to extend a deadline for DACA recipients.
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DNAinfo/Noah Hurowitz

DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — A federal judge on Thursday called for DACA renewal deadlines to be extended as President Donald Trump brings the program to an end — but stopped short of giving the order, saying he hoped political leaders could come to a solution.

Judge Nicholas Garaufis encouraged the Department of Justice to work with the Department of Homeland Security to push back the Oct. 5 deadline under which current recipients of DACA, the Obama-era executive action barring the deportation of young undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children, must reapply for work permits under the program, and gave the agency’s lawyers until Sept. 26 to say if it will do so.

“The court’s hope is to stay out of this and let the political branches resolve it, and it would appear that there is some progress being made in that regard,” he said. “I believe DHS would be well served by giving that process the chance to bear fruit.”

► READ MORE: Legal Challenge Filed Against President Trump's Plans to End DACA

Garaufis was presiding over a lawsuit in Brooklyn Federal Court brought by Martin Batalla Vidal and Make The Road New York against Trump’s plan to wind down DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

Batalla Vidal, who grew up in Bushwick and now lives in Ridgewood, initially brought the lawsuit in response to a 2015 ruling in Texas that challenged DACA and put the work permit he had received under the program in jeopardy.

The lawsuit is being refiled as a class action against Trump’s plan to end DACA, with new plaintiffs being added, including Batalla Vidal’s brother and other so-called “dreamers” hoping to remain in the country with the legal ability to work without the fear of deportation hanging over their heads.

Calling DACA unconstitutional, DOJ lawyers Thursday said DHS had initially declined to extend the Oct. 5 deadline by which more than 150,000 of the roughly 800,000 DACA recipients must reapply to extend their work permits while the program still stands. But Garaufis, who scoffed at what he described as the arbitrariness of the deadline, urged them to reconsider. 

“No one would be harmed by extending the deadline, certainly not the 800,000 who are sweating that someone will knock on their door and send them to a country they don’t even know with a language they don’t even speak,” the judge said.

Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Sept. 5 that the DACA program would come to an end March 5, but Trump called on lawmakers to figure out a way to salvage at least portions of the program in order to avoid the deportation of young undocumented immigrants who he called “good, educated and accomplished.”

Jumbled messages came out of the White House and the Democratic congressional leadership this week, with Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer announcing what they called a deal to save DACA in exchange for increased border security, according to the Associated Press. But in a series of tweets Thursday, Trump insisted that no deal had been struck, and said the plan would be subject to a vote and would be contingent on “massive” border security.

Lawyers from the Justice Department and Make The Road will reconvene Sept. 26 to present arguments and decide on the status of the reapplication deadlines, which the plaintiffs said they would challenge in court if the government does not extend them. Lawyers for the government also plan to seek the suit’s dismissal, according to DOJ lawyer Brett Shumate.

In a press conference following the hearing, Batalla Vidal said he was confident Garaufis — who was appointed by President Bill Clinton — had understood the seriousness of the position of Dreamers nervously watching the clock tick on the program. 

“He knows that if we lose DACA, that will cause a lot of harm to our families,” he said.