Thursday, November 8, 2018

Ninth Circuit Affirms Injunction Barring the Rescission of DACA


The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has upheld the injunction barring the rescission of DACA.  The opinion was written by Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw; Judge Jacqueline H. Nguyen joined the opinion.  Judge John B. Owens filed an opinion concurring in part. 

Here is the court's summary of the opinion:

 "In an action challenging the Department of Homeland Security’s rescission of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the panel affirmed the district court’s grant of preliminary injunctive relief, and affirmed in part the district court’s partial grant and partial denial of the government’s motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim.

Begun in 2012, DACA allows those noncitizens who unwittingly entered the United States as children, who have clean criminal records, and who meet various educational or military service requirements to apply for two-year renewable periods of deferred action—a revocable decision by the government not to deport an otherwise removable person from the country. In 2014, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson issued a memorandum that announced the related Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents program (DAPA), which allowed deferred action for certain noncitizen parents of American citizens and lawful permanent residents, and expanded DACA. All of the policies outlined in the 2014 Johnson memorandum were enjoined nationwide in a district court order upheld by the Fifth Circuit and affirmed by an equally divided Supreme Court. After a new presidential administration took office, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke issued a memorandum in September 2017 rescinding DACA.

Suits were filed in the Northern District of California by the Regents of the University of California, a group of states led by California, the City of San Jose, the County of Santa Clara and Service Employees International Union Local 521, and a group of individual DACA recipients led by Dulce Garcia. The cases were consolidated, and the district court ordered the government to complete the administrative record. Seeking to avoid providing additional documents, the government filed a petition for mandamus, which this court denied. The government petitioned the Supreme Court for the same mandamus relief; the Court did not reach the merits of the administrative record dispute, but instructed the district court to rule on the government’s threshold arguments challenging reviewability of its rescission decision. The district court entered a preliminary injunction requiring DHS to adjudicate renewal applications for existing DACA recipients, and the court partially granted and partially denied the government’s motion to dismiss.

The panel held that neither the Administrative Procedure Act nor the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) barred judicial review of the decision to rescind DACA. With respect to the APA, the panel reviewed the cases of Heckler v. Chaney, 470 U.S. 821 (1985), Montana Air Chapter No. 29 v. Federal Labor Relations Authority, 898 F.2d 753 (9th Cir. 1990), and City of Arlington v. FCC, 569 U.S. 290 (2013). The panel concluded that, where the agency’s decision is based not on an exercise of discretion, but instead on a belief that any alternative choice was foreclosed by law because the agency lacked authority, the APA’s "committed to agency discretion" bar to reviewability, 5 U.S.C. § 701(a)(2), does not apply. The panel also concluded that the Acting Secretary based the rescission of DACA solely on a belief that DACA was beyond the authority of DHS. Accordingly, the panel determined that the rescission was within the realm of agency actions reviewable under the APA.

With respect to the INA, the panel rejected the government’s contention that review was barred by 8 U.S.C. § 1252(g), which precludes judicial review of "any cause or claim by or on behalf of any alien arising from the decision or action of the [Secretary of Homeland Security] to commence proceedings, adjudicate cases, or execute removal orders." The panel explained that, under Reno v. Am.-Arab Anti-Discrimination Comm., 525 U.S. 471 (1999), the rescission does not fall within the three discrete actions mentioned in 8 U.S.C. § 1252(g).

Having concluded that neither the APA nor the INA precludes judicial review, the panel turned to the merits of the preliminary injunction and considered whether the agency was correct in concluding that DACA was unlawful. The Attorney General’s primary bases for concluding that DACA was illegal were that the program was "effectuated . . . without proper statutory authority" and that it amounted to "an unconstitutional exercise of authority." More specifically, the Attorney General asserted that "the DACA policy has the same legal and constitutional defects that the courts recognized as to DAPA" in the Fifth Circuit litigation. The panel considered the DAPA litigation, comparing aspects of DAPA and DACA, and concluded that that DACA was a permissible exercise of executive discretion, notwithstanding the Fifth Circuit’s conclusion that the related DAPA program exceeded DHS’s statutory authority. Thus, the panel concluded that, because the Acting Secretary was incorrect in her belief that DACA was illegal and had to be rescinded, plaintiffs are likely to succeed in demonstrating that the rescission must be set aside under the APA as arbitrary and capricious.

The panel next concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in issuing a nationwide injunction, noting that such relief is commonplace in APA cases, promotes uniformity in immigration enforcement, and is necessary to provide the plaintiffs here with complete redress.

Finally, addressing the district court’s order granting in part and denying in part the government’s motion to dismiss, the court concluded that the district court properly dismissed plaintiffs’ APA notice-and-comment claim, and their claim that the DACA rescission violates their substantive due process rights. The panel further concluded that the district court also properly denied the government’s motion to dismiss plaintiffs’ APA arbitrary-and-capricious claim, their claim that the new information-sharing policy violates their due process rights, and their claim that the DACA rescission violates their right to equal protection.

Concurring in the judgment, Judge Owens wrote that, as he believed the Plaintiffs’ Equal Protection claim has some likelihood of success on the merits, he concurred in the judgment affirming the preliminary injunction. However, Judge Owens disagreed with the majority’s conclusion that otherwise unreviewable agency action is reviewable when the agency justifies its action by reference to its understanding of its jurisdiction. Therefore, Judge Owens would hold that § 701(a)(2) precludes the court from subjecting DACA’s rescission to arbitrary-and-capricious review. Judge Owens would also affirm the preliminary injunction and remand for consideration whether Plaintiffs have demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits of their Equal Protection claim.

As for the government’s appeal from the motions to dismiss, Judge Owens dissented from the majority’s holding to affirm the district court’s denial of the motion to dismiss Plaintiffs’ APA arbitrary-and-capricious claim. However, he concurred in the majority’s holding to affirm the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiffs’ APA notice-and-comment claim. He also concurred in the judgment to affirm the district court’s ruling on Plaintiffs’ Due Process claims. He also agreed with the majority’s decision to affirm the district court’s denial of the motion to dismiss the Equal Protection claim and hold that the Equal Protection claim offers an alternative ground to affirm the preliminary injunction."


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