PASADENA (CBS News/AP) — Federal appeals court judges appeared skeptical of the Trump administration’s claim that courts couldn’t review its decision to end an Obama-era immigration policy that shielded hundreds of thousands of young immigrants from deportation.
Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Jacqueline Nguyen asked an attorney for the administration during a hearing Tuesday whether courts would have that power if they didn’t agree with the administration’s claim that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was implemented illegally.
Hashim Mooppan, an attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice, said rescinding DACA was a decision to enforce law and was at the administration’s discretion.
DACA has protected some 700,000 people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children or came with families that overstayed visas.
A federal judge in San Francisco in January blocked the Trump administration’s decision and reinstated the program. The administration wants the 9th Circuit to throw out that ruling.
In January, a U.S. District Judge in San Francisco granted a request by California and other plaintiffs to prevent President Trump from ending DACA while their lawsuits play out in court. Judge William Alsup rejected the argument that President Barack Obama exceeded his power in implementing DACA and said the Trump administration failed to consider the disruption that ending the program would cause.
The Department of Justice appealed Alsup’s decision, and the Trump administration then took the unusual step of trying to bypass the federal appeals court in San Francisco to appeal directly to the Supreme Court.
However, in February, the Supreme Court rejected the administration’s bid to get the justices to intervene in the controversy. However, experts believe the DACA case will likely work its way through the lower courts and end up before the U.S. Supreme Court eventually.
Meanwhile, in February, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said it had resumed accepting requests to renew DACA permits due to the federal injunctions.
Federal judges in New York and Washington, D.C., also have ruled against the Trump administration on DACA. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is expected to hear arguments this summer on an appeal of the New York judge’s ruling.
Tuesday’s hearing is over a federal lawsuit filed last September by the University of California Regents against the Trump administration. The lawsuit includes university president Janet Napolitano as a plaintiff. Napolitano, who was secretary of the Department of Homeland Security from 2009 to 2013, helped create the DACA program in 2012.
The Trump administration wants the 9th Circuit to throw out Alsup’s ruling along with the five lawsuits he considered.
“The rescission of DACA is based on what appears to be an argument that DACA was illegal when it was enacted, but that’s just wrong,” Jeff Davidson, an attorney representing UC regents, said on a recent conference call with reporters.
The 9th Circuit has ruled against Trump’s travel bans and is also considering the president’s executive order to cut off funding from so-called sanctuary cities that limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities. Trump has said he has considered breaking up the court, which is widely considered the most liberal of the U.S. appeals courts.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)