Judge: Keep Jessica Colotl’s DACA status in place

A federal judge in Atlanta has for a second time ordered the Trump administration to keep in place a temporary reprieve from deportation for Jessica Colotl, the Norcross woman who has become a flashpoint in the national debate over illegal immigration. 

In his ruling issued Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Mark Cohen said the Mexican native’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status will remain in effect pending his decision on the government’s request to dismiss her lawsuit. Cohen, nominated to the bench by President Barack Obama, has set a hearing on the government’s motion for Nov. 9. 

IN-DEPTH: Trump administration strips Georgia woman of reprieve from deportation

RELATED: Judge: Reinstate Jessica Colotl’s reprieve from deportation 

Cohen’s ruling follows U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ decision last week to deny the Kennesaw State University graduate’s request to renew her DACA status. USCIS told her U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is seeking to deport her. Colotl’s DACA status was set to expire Tuesday before Cohen issued his decision. 

ICE declined to comment on Cohen’s ruling. In its Oct. 23 letter to Colotl, USCIS told her “that you have not demonstrated that you warrant a favorable exercise of prosecutorial discretion.”

Charles Kuck, Colotl’s attorney, said he was pleased with Cohen’s ruling, adding the judge “saw through USCIS ignoring his order and not making a decision on Jessica’s DACA renewal in accordance with their own policies. We hope that USCIS will, eventually, follow its own policy and approval this DACA renewal. There is no reason to deny it.”

A Lakeside High School graduate, Colotl drew national attention after she was arrested on the KSU campus in 2010 and charged with impeding traffic and driving without a license. Critics of illegal immigration grew angry when they learned KSU was charging her an in-state tuition rate. State officials later adopted a policy requiring all universities to verify the “lawful presence” of students seeking in-state tuition. Colotl was held in an immigration detention center in Alabama for more than a month before she was given a reprieve and allowed to finish her degree in 2011 at KSU, which started charging her out-of-state tuition. 

Meanwhile, the Trump administration is seeking to dismiss a lawsuit filed by 15 states — not including Georgia — to retain DACA. Trump announced last month that he was phasing out the program. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has called DACA an unconstitutional “overreach” by the Obama administration. Former President Barack Obama said his administration created the program “based on the well-established legal principle of prosecutorial discretion, deployed by Democratic and Republican presidents alike.”

Joined by the District of Columbia, the states filed their suit in a federal court in New York last month, alleging Trump’s actions are discriminatory and violate equal protection rights. In a court filing Friday, the federal government said its decision is “presumed immune from judicial review,” adding it “generally has absolute discretion to revoke deferred action unilaterally, for any reason or no reason, with or without notice, and an individual with deferred action remains removable at any time.”

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