Summary of the Ruling in Regents of the University of California v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security


Last week, U.S. District Judge William Alsup of the Northern District of California granted a request by California and other states to stop the administration from ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals ( DACA). The U.S. government is now accepting DACA renewal requests.

Here is the court's ruling. Law student Katie Kelly summarizes the ruling below:

In this decision, the court considered the government’s three arguments asserting that the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction: 1) that the rescission of DACA was a discretionary act barred from judicial review under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 2) that the INA bars judicial review, and 3) that only individual plaintiffs, rather than states or public entities, have standing for claims challenging the rescission. Additionally, the court granted partial provisional relief for the plaintiffs.

The court begins by giving a brief overview and history of deferred action programs. The court summarized the circumstances surrounding the DACA rescission, explaining that the government’s stated reason for rescinding the program was the illegality in the establishment of the program, allegedly similar to the problems found by the Supreme Court with regard to the DAPA program in Texas v. United States . Additionally, the government claims that rescinding DACA would provide an orderly wind-down of the program while avoiding an inevitable injunction from the Fifth Circuit as a result of the DAPA decision. After describing Plaintiffs’ action against the government for the rescission of the program, the court turned to the government’s arguments.

Government’s FRCP 12(b)(1) Dismissals Partially Denied

First, the court explained that Section 701(a)(2) of the APA provides that district courts lack subject matter jurisdiction to review agency action that is “committed to agency discretion by law.” Contrasting the instant case with Heckler v. Chaney , the court determined that ending DACA, a five-year-old program affecting 689,800 individuals nationwide, is distinct from an agency’s discretion to refuse to enforce certain policies; the decision to terminate a program is distinct from an agency’s decision not to regulate. The court concludes that there is law to apply to determine the legality of the program, and that determination is a quintessential role of the courts. Thus, the government’s first argument fails.

For its second argument, the government points to 8 U.S.C. § 1252(g) which limits courts’ “jurisdiction to hear any cause or claim by or on behalf of any alien,” arising from the discretion of the Attorney General. The court rejects this argument, however, determining that judicial review in this case does not inappropriately delay removal of any individual, as the action concerns no individual removal, but rather the across-the-board cancellation of a nationwide program. Thus, § 1252(g) is inapplicable in this case.

The court rejects the government’s third argument, that all non-individual Plaintiffs lack standing, explaining that most of the city and state Plaintiffs have expended resources hiring DACA recipients, and, should those recipients be deported, would be subjected to more expenses in the replacement of those employees. The court points to the University of California’s loss of proprietary interests as a significant harm. Further, the state Plaintiff’s loss of students and teachers at their public universities are sufficient harms. Finally, the court concludes that the SEIU Local 521 has standing because it has members who are DACA recipients, and its stated goals are to protect workers’ interests, regardless of immigration status. The court notes, however, that loss of significant tax revenue and negative impacts on public health programs are so marginally related to the DACA rescission that the states asserting only these claims – Maine and Minnesota – were dismissed.

Plaintiff’s Provisional Relief Partially Granted

Lastly, the court turned to Plaintiff’s request for provisional relief. To support a preliminary injunction, Plaintiffs must establish 1) the likelihood of success on the merits; 2) irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief; 3) that the balance of equities tips in Plaintiffs’ favor; and 4) that the relief is in the public interest.

Stating that the Plaintiffs were likely to succeed in arguing that the DACA rescission was based on legal error, the court explains that the reasoning behind the rescission – that it was unlawfully passed – was incorrect. Instead, the court explains, the DACA program was rooted in authority provided by Congress and the Supreme Court, and in establishing the program, the agency acted within its scope of authority. Further, DACA and DAPA are sufficiently distinct that the results from the DAPA litigation are not determinative for the instant case.

The court concludes that the government’s alternate rationale for ending DACA – to avoid a Fifth Circuit injunction – was a post hoc rationalization. The court notes that the government has blindly accepted that DAPA and DACA present the same legal concerns, without providing an analysis on how the programs are distinct. The government offers no discussion on whether the program was worth fighting for, if it was susceptible to litigation, and has provided no analysis regarding the DACA recipients’ reliant interests on the program after five years of implementation. The lack of any sufficient reasoning for ending DACA supports the assertion that the decision was arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion.

Without this injunction, Plaintiffs would undoubtedly suffer irreparable harm, as discussed in the standing section. The court further found that public interest will be served by DACA’s continuation, pointing to President Trump’s support of the program as evidence. Based on these factors, the court ordered the DACA program to be maintained on a nationwide basis, with a few exceptions: that new applicants need not be processed, that the advanced parole feature need not be continued, and that defendants may take necessary steps to ensure discretion is exercised on an individual basis for each renewal application.


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About The Author

Kevin Johnson Kevin Johnson is Dean, Mabie-Apallas Professor of Public Interest Law, and Professor of Chicana/o Studies. He joined the UC Davis law faculty in 1989 and was named Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in 1998. Johnson became Dean in 2008. He has taught a wide array of classes, including immigration law, civil procedure, complex litigation, Latinos and Latinas and the law, and Critical Race Theory. In 1993, he was the recipient of the law school's Distinguished Teaching Award.Dean Johnson has published extensively on immigration law and civil rights. Published in 1999, his book How Did You Get to Be Mexican? A White/Brown Man's Search for Identity was nominated for the 2000 Robert F. Kennedy Book Award. Dean Johnson’s latest book, Immigration Law and the US-Mexico Border (2011), received the Latino Literacy Now’s International Latino Book Awards – Best Reference Book. Dean Johnson blogs at ImmigrationProf, and is a regular contributor on immigration on SCOTUSblog. A regular participant in national and international conferences, Dean Johnson has also held leadership positions in the Association of American Law Schools and is the recipient of an array of honors and awards. He is quoted regularly by the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and other national and international news outlets.

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