NEW YORK – Citing President Donald Trump’s “racially charged language,” a federal judge ruled on Thursday that a lawsuit seeking to preserve a program that protects hundreds of thousands of young unauthorized immigrants from deportation could continue.
The order, by U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis in Brooklyn, was the strongest sign so far of judicial support for the program known as DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which has for months been the subject of a heated debate in Congress.
In October, Justice Department lawyers filed a motion to dismiss the Brooklyn suit, claiming that the plaintiffs — a coalition of immigration lawyers and a group of Democratic state attorneys general — had failed to make a persuasive case that DACA was rolled back in September because of racial animus toward Latinos.
But in his order rejecting the motion to dismiss, Garaufis pointed directly at Trump, noting that his numerous “racial slurs” and “epithets” — both as a candidate and from the White House — had created a “plausible inference” that the decision to end DACA violated the equal protection clause of the Constitution.
“One might reasonably infer,” Garaufis wrote, “that a candidate who makes overtly bigoted statements on the campaign trail might be more likely to engage in similarly bigoted action in office.”
In February, Garaufis issued an injunction ordering the Trump administration to keep DACA in place as he considered the suit’s legal merits. That injunction echoed a similar one issued in January by U.S. District Judge William Alsup in San Francisco, who is hearing a separate but related suit.
The ruling on Thursday took the legal process in New York one step further, strongly hinting at what Garaufis thought about the suit’s central claims. It did not offer a conclusive win for the plaintiffs, only allowing the case to move forward toward a summary judgment decision or a trial. But it was notable for its strong language suggesting that there may have been an improper racial motivation for rescinding DACA.
Of the nearly 800,000 immigrants who are protected by DACA — referred to as “Dreamers,” — more than 90 percent hail from Latin America, and almost 80 percent are originally from Mexico.