By Richard Cowan and Mica Rosenberg
WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday blasted the federal court system as “broken and unfair” after a judge blocked his administration’s move to end a program protecting young immigrants brought to the United States illegally by their parents.
A U.S. District Court judge in San Francisco ruled late on Tuesday that Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which Trump has said he will end, should remain in effect until legal challenges brought in multiple courts are resolved.
Under the administration’s plan, the program for young people commonly known as “Dreamers” would be phased out over a two-year period, beginning in March.
“It just shows everyone how broken and unfair our Court System is when the opposing side in a case (such as DACA) … almost always wins before being reversed by higher courts,” the Republican president wrote on Twitter.
The Justice Department said in a statement it “looks forward to vindicating its position in further litigation.”
But the administration did not immediately appeal the decision by U.S. District Judge William Alsup of the Northern District of California. An appeal from that court would typically go to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Some legal experts predicted the Trump administration would be successful if it appealed the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. In December, the country’s highest court granted an administration request to block an earlier Alsup order that called for the release of internal documents related to the government’s DACA decision.
Several experts also said Tuesday’s court ruling could complicate negotiations between congressional Democrats and Republicans trying to reach a deal to resolve the legal status of nearly 700,000 young immigrants covered by the program, which allows them to live and work in the United States.
“The ruling could deflate the pressure on Congress to act in the next week and in our view there remains just as much urgency as ever for a lasting fix,” said Michael Tan from the American Civil Liberties Union. Dreamers “don’t need a protracted legal battle,” he added.
At a White House meeting on Tuesday before the court ruling, Trump urged lawmakers to quickly reach a bipartisan DACA deal before moving on to even tougher negotiations on a comprehensive immigration bill.
Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer also urged a quick legislative solution. The talks on DACA have become embroiled in negotiations on funding for the federal government, which expires on Jan. 19.
“The ruling last night in no way diminishes the urgency of solving the DACA issue,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. “On this, we agree with the White House.”
John Cornyn, the Senate’s No. 2 Republican, condemned the ruling, but said it would not affect congressional negotiations.
“We’re reading the court’s opinion. It strikes me as wildly wrong,” Cornyn told reporters. “If President Obama can create the Deferred Action program, then certainly President Trump can uncreate it.”
Cornyn said various attempts in the past few months to strike a deal “were basically getting nowhere.” Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, disputed that assessment as he emerged from talks on Wednesday and said Jan. 19 was still the goal for a deal so it could be attached to the spending bill.
At a White House news conference, Trump said: “I really believe they are going to come up with a solution.” But he repeated his demand that any deal include funding for a border wall with Mexico, which Democrats have resisted.
Trump, in office nearly a year, has a history of attacking courts that rule against him.
After his first version of a travel ban affecting several Muslim-majority countries was blocked, he called it a “ridiculous” decision by a “so-called judge.” During his presidential campaign, he attacked the integrity of a Mexican-American judge presiding over a lawsuit involving Trump University.
Alsup said in his ruling the federal government did not have to process new applications from people who had never before received protection under the DACA program. But he ordered the government to continue processing renewal applications from people who had previously been covered.
A majority of those protected under DACA are from Mexico and Central America and have spent most of their lives in the United States, attending school and participating in society.
Trump put their fate in doubt in early September when he said he was ending the DACA program created by former Democratic President Barack Obama and that it was up to Congress to come up with a solution.
In his ruling, Alsup quoted previous tweets by the president in support of Dreamers. “In September,” Alsup wrote, “President Trump stated his support for DACA, tweeting: ‘Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military? Really!'”
(Additional reporting by Blake Brittain, Yeganeh Torbati and Susan Cornwell in Washington; Writing by John Whitesides; Editing by Frances Kerry and Peter Cooney)