By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) - A federal judge in New York dealt the Trump administration the second legal defeat in its effort to end Obama-era immigration protections for hundreds of thousands of people brought illegally to the U.S. as children.
President Donald Trump moved last year to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, telling Congress to find a legislative fix for "Dreamers" who were plunged into legal limbo by his decision.
In his ruling Tuesday, District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis said the administration can "indisputably" end DACA but questioned its legal reasoning for doing so.
"The question before the court is thus not whether defendants could end the DACA program but whether they offered legally adequate reasons for doing so," Garaufis wrote. "The court concludes that defendants have not done so."
Trump and his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, had sought to justify DACA's end by saying the program was illegal and they risked legal challenges by keeping it running. But Garaufis called that reasoning a "plainly incorrect factual premise".
"Reliance on this 'litigation risk' rationale would have been arbitrary and capricious, in light of defendants' failure to explain their decision or to consider any factors that might have weighed against ending the DACA program," he said.
"The public interest is not served by allowing defendants to proceed with arbitrary and capricious action," he added while issuing a preliminary injunction.
Garaufis' ruling is the second such setback for the Trump administration after a federal judge in California ruled last month that DACA's legal protections must remain in place while the case is adjudicated.
Amid the legal setback, Senate efforts to find a solution stalled Tuesday as party leaders squabbled over how to start proceedings.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell gave senators until the end of the week to agree to a bipartisan DACA solution.
Lawmakers have until a Trump-mandated March 5 deadline to find a replacement.