Dreamers won another victory from California courts this week after a federal judge in Los Angeles found that the government had unfairly revoked legal permits for some recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and must give them back.
United States District Court Judge Philip Gutierrez ruled that 22 recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program who had their legal status to live and work in the United States revoked after being accused of crimes but not convicted, or convicted of minor misdemeanors, must have their status restored.
The ruling created a nationwide class action suit and injunction that will likely apply to other Dreamers and will require the government to allow Deferred Action holders in similar situations to appear before a judge before their status is taken away.
"It's basically saying you can't take away somebody's DACA or work authority without the right to be heard," said Kevin Johnson, dean of the University of California, Davis law school. "If someone is charged with a crime, you can’t just strip them of DACA and strip them of their job. You have to have a hearing."
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Johnson was not involved in the case.
The decision came the same day that the Supreme Court declined to intervene on another DACA case out of California federal courts, in which Attorney General Xavier Becerra and others won a nationwide injunction in January that required the government to continue to accept and process Deferred Action renewals.
But Tuesday the Supreme Court also dealt a blow to undocumented immigrants when it ruled the government could hold those facing deportation indefinitely without a bond hearing. That decision overturned the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which had earlier ruled immigrants in detention were entitled to such a hearing every six months.
The Monday ruling out of California's Central District Eastern Division federal court gives the government 14 days to come up with a list of how many people may qualify to regain their DACA permits.
The class covers all Deferred Action recipients who lost their status after January 2017 because of allegedly criminal conduct without a chance to fight the revocation, even if they ultimately had no criminal conviction that would have fairly allowed the government to cancel their permits.
Katrina Eiland, an American Civil Liberties Union Immigrants' Rights Project attorney involved in the case, said Deferred Action permits can be canceled if a holder is convicted of a felony, certain serious misdemeanors such as domestic violence or assault, or is convicted of three minor misdemeanors.
But for the defendants in the California case, there was often no underlying offense – just an unproven accusation.
One of the lead plaintiffs in the case is Jesus Arreola Robles.
Arreola, 23, came to the United States when he was 1 year old, and both his parents are now legal residents. His three sisters are citizens, including his oldest sister who has Down’s syndrome. Arreola helps care for his disabled sibling and pays half the rent for his parents.
Arreola graduated from high school in Los Angeles and obtained DACA status in 2012. He has successfully renewed it twice. He was employed at the Chateau Marmont, a noted Hollywood hotel, in Los Angeles as a cook, and also drove for Uber and Lyft.
Last February, a friend hired him for $600 to drive the friend’s cousin round-trip from Los Angeles to San Diego to pick up two people the customer described as family members. When Arreola and his fare arrived at the site, they found a Customs and Border Patrol agent waiting.
Arreola was arrested for smuggling people across the border and detained for 21 days – in facilities as distant as Georgia - before an immigration judge found he was not involved and released him. Arreola was not charged with any crimes.
But soon after he received notice that his Deferred Action status and work permit were canceled without any way to appeal the decision - what the government argued was a standard procedure anytime a Deferred Action holder was issued an order to appear after it found reasons that a holder may no longer qualify.
Arreola lost his job, according to court papers.
In December, the ACLU won an individual injunction for Arreola to regain his DACA status as part of the case.
The court found that simply being issued a notice to appear did not make a permit holder ‘inelgibible for the program” and therefore the “practice of automatically terminating DACA on this basis is arbitrary and irrational.”
Monday's ruling was an expansion of that decision, allowing it to be applied to others with similar circumstances.
Eiland said there is no way to know how many Dreamers may be included in that group but that the nearly two-dozen named in the suit are likely “the tip of the iceberg.”