The chairman of the U.S. bishops' migration committee Dec. 8 welcomed the court ruling fully restoring the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, but said only Congress can "take up and pass legislation granting Dreamers a path to citizenship."
The bishops "are particularly pleased that with this ruling," handed down late Dec. 4 by Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis of the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, New York, because "youth who are first-time applicants are allowed to apply for the program for the first time since 2017," said Auxiliary Washington Auxiliary Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville, chairman of the USCCB's Committee on Migration.
"The DACA program directly benefits immigrant youth, their families, and the communities we serve," he said.
Bishop Dorsonville urged Congress to pass the measure needed to provide "a path to citizenship (that) will give Dreamers and their families true security and the ability to fully thrive."
DACA was suspended this summer by Chad Wolf, acting Homeland Security secretary.
In his ruling, Garaufis said in fully restoring DACA, the Trump administration must reopen the program for first-time applicants and reinstate the period of protection for DACA recipients to its initial two-year extension not one year, as Wolf's memo specified.
"Great news to end the week!" Jill Marie Bussey, director of advocacy for Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc., or CLINIC, tweeted Dec. 4. She said her office would "monitor and advise" DACA recipients once they saw U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services "comply with the posting requirements."
Garaufis gave the federal government a Dec. 7 deadline to post a public notice that new DACA applications were being accepted.
"To all Dreamers, the Catholic Church continues to stand with you and will advocate with you to ensure you reach your God-given potential here in the United States," Bishop Dorsonville said in his statement.
"We hope the reinstatement of DACA begins a new chapter of possibility on the issue of immigration, including the introduction and passage of legislative reform by Congress that addresses our broken immigration system," he said.
"We will continue to advocate for reform that values family unity, honors due process and the rule of law, recognizes the contributions of workers, protects the vulnerable fleeing persecution and addresses the root causes of migration," the bishop added.
In other Dec. 4 reaction, several immigration advocacy groups similarly welcomed the news of Garaufis' ruling on social media.
"This is a major victory for immigrant youth, led by immigrant youth," tweeted the National Immigration Law Center. The group added that it looked "forward to working with the incoming Biden administration to create a permanent solution for immigrant youth and communities."
And on a practical level, it urged "all eligible immigrant youth who hoped to file an initial DACA application to consult with an immigration attorney to consider filing as soon as possible."
The judge's ruling follows one he gave in November which said Wolf's suspension of DACA was invalid because he did not legally hold his position when he issued the order.
In July, Wolf issued a memorandum rejecting first-time applications for DACA and limiting DACA renewals to one-year extensions instead of two. The memo drew criticism from immigrant advocates and Catholic officials. Leaders of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said they were "deeply disappointed" by it, and Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, California, said it was "irresponsible and recalcitrant."
The memo was issued more than a month after the Supreme Court ruled against efforts by the Trump administration to end DACA. President-elect Joe Biden said he plans to reinstate DACA and he also is expected to use executive orders to reverse other immigration policies of President Donald Trump.
DACA, a 2012 program President Barack Obama started by executive order, has enabled about 700,000 qualifying young people to work, go to college, get health insurance and a driver's license and not face deportation. These young adults were brought to the U.S. as children by their parents without legal documentation.
Wolf had said the Trump administration may try to end DACA by looking at it as a law enforcement issue potentially contributing to illegal immigration. He also had described his action as a temporary change while the federal government reviewed next steps.
Karen Tumlin, a lawyer who represented a plaintiff in one of the lawsuits challenging Wolf's order, tweeted Dec. 4 that the latest ruling essentially means: "The DACA program must return to how it was before the effort by the Trump administration's effort to end the program on Sept. 5, 2017."
The September date is when then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced DACA was "being rescinded" by the president, leaving its recipients in danger of losing work permits or deportation.
The biggest impact of Wolf's memo would have been on new DACA applicants.
CLINIC attorneys have said about 60,000 young people now over age 15 would qualify for new DACA status, and the agency had been urging young people to get their paperwork together and seek legal advice about the program since the Supreme Court ruled in June that DACA would remain in place.
The program still faces other challenges, including a case in federal court in Texas, where Republican attorneys general have asked a judge to declare it unlawful. The Trump administration could also appeal the Dec. 4 ruling.