From the outlandish injunctions against President Trump’s travel ban to the equally-absurd blocks on his decision to disqualify transgenders from military service, the past 16 months have been an astonishing demonstration in the power (and danger) of judicial activism. But while there was little legal defense for those rulings, they don’t even come close to the nefarious decision that just came down from U.S. District Judge John Bates. In his ruling, which orders the Trump administration to not only continue to accept applications for DACA renewals but to keep accepting NEW applicants, Bates has tarnished the rule of law and threatened the integrity of our entire justice system.
The key to understanding the sheer egregiousness of this ruling is to break it down to its simplest components. Barack Obama went around Congress and the appropriate federal rule-making processes to create DACA in 2012. Immediately, legal experts and Republicans accused him of abusing the power of the executive branch to defy the established federal law on immigration. Obama, in turn, claimed that he was merely codifying his policy of “prosecutorial discretion”: He was directing immigration authorities to leave the children of illegal immigrants alone and instead focus on the bad guys.
This didn’t pass muster, of course, because DACA went much further than Obama’s right to direct ICE. It established work permits and other special benefits for Dreamers that had nothing to do with protecting them from deportation. It was, in effect, a version of executive amnesty, a situation that only grew worse in 2014 when Obama (having gotten away with one power grab) tried to go even further. He signed DAPA, which extended the same amnesty to the parents along with a whole host of extra-legal benefits.
This time the states fought back, bringing a lawsuit against the administration that resulted in a nationwide injunction against the order. And when Trump took office, his Justice Department warned him that another lawsuit was coming for DACA, and it stood on no better legal ground than its successor. Trump chose to end the program in the hopes that Congress would come up with a legislative fix.
That fix didn’t materialize thanks to the Democrats being unwilling to negotiate with Republicans on immigration solutions. But the courts gave the Democrats the ability to stand firm. As long as liberal activist judges were blocking Trump from ending DACA, there was no pressure on them to bend even an inch on immigration.
Now the judicial activism has reached its apex. Judge Bates has ruled that while President Obama was perfectly within his legal rights to sign an executive order defying federal immigration law, President Trump is NOT allowed to rescind that order. Why? Because Bates believes that DACA has helped a lot of people. Well, guess what, your honor: That doesn’t actually matter. The law is the law, and the president’s authority is his to exercise.
This is one of the most extraordinarily partisan rulings in our nation’s legal history; if left uncorrected, it establishes a precedent that will turn our justice system into a total circus.