By Mica Rosenberg
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A U.S. judge on Thursday repeatedly pressed the Trump administration to extend an October deadline for some immigrants to reapply for a program that shielded children brought to the United States illegally by their parents from deportation.
President Donald Trump recently decided to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, in March 2018. However, immigrants known as Dreamers with work permits that expire before then can apply to renew them for another two years if they do so before Oct. 5.
At a hearing in a federal court in Brooklyn on Thursday, U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis said the administration's "arbitrary" deadline is destructive, and extending it would give Congress time for a legislative solution.
"No one will be harmed by extending this deadline," Garaufis said, "especially the 800,000 people who are sweating about whether someone is going to come knocking on their door and send them back to a country that they don't even know and where they don't speak the language."
Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brett Shumate said the Department of Homeland Security was already considering an extension due to recent hurricanes, but no decisions had been made.
"We will definitely take your concerns back to our clients," Shumate said.
Trump said on Thursday he was close to a deal with Democratic congressional leaders on protections for Dreamers, astounding fellow Republicans while alarming conservative supporters.
The judge's comments came as he was deciding whether immigration advocacy groups would be allowed to file new legal claims challenging Trump's decision to end DACA. Those groups hope to bring a national class action that includes allegations Trump did not follow proper administrative procedures in rescinding DACA.
Garaufis cited Trump's own tweets praising Dreamers as a reason to extend the October deadline.
"It would be useful to take some of the pressure off some of the parties, particularly these good educated young people that the president is speaking about with such admiration," Garaufis said.
"This is a much wider situation than just these individuals," the judge added. "They pay taxes, they pay mortgages, they support their communities."
Martín Batalla Vidal, a 26-year-old DACA recipient whose status expires in February 2019, said he was glad the judge saw the economic consequences of ending the program.
"He knows that if we lose DACA and we lose our jobs, that will cause a lot of harm to our families," Batalla Vidal told reporters after the hearing.
(Reporting by Mica Rosenberg in New York, writing by Dan Levine in San Francisco; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Jonathan Oatis)