Attorney General Jeff Sessions has kept a rather low profile since being confirmed to head the Justice Department, so much so that some people have joked that he is sleeping on the job or otherwise not doing what he is supposed to be doing in that role.
But it would appear that Sessions has awakened from his slumber in response to a federal judge’s ruling that the Trump administration must reinstate the repealed Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, as he issued a scathing retort that made clear the judge had overstepped his bounds and the ruling would be appealed.
According to the Washington Examiner, U.S. District Court Judge John Bates ruled Friday that the DOJ had failed to make an adequate case in defense of the decision to rescind the DACA program and ordered it to be renewed after a 20-day window in which his ruling could be appealed.
Bates asserted that the Trump administration had failed to “elaborate meaningfully” on their rationale for why they believed the program begun with an executive action by former President Barack Obama — which they view as unconstitutional and unlawful — could be similarly rescinded with an executive action.
But Sessions let loose in an official statement on the ruling that ripped this specific ruling and the courts more generally for how they’ve increasingly “improperly used judicial power” to shape and steer executive policies, which “improperly undermines” the ability of the administration to fulfill its Constitutional duties of enacting policies and enforcing existing laws.
In signaling his disagreement with the ruling, Sessions stated, “The executive branch’s authority to simply rescind a policy, established only by a letter from the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, is clearly established. The Department of Justice will take every lawful measure to vindicate the Department of Homeland Security’s lawful rescission of DACA.”
He noted that the previous administration had “violated its duty” to enforce immigration laws and pointed out how the non-enforcement policies of DACA and its companion program DAPA — Deferred Action for Parents of Americans, which was invalidated by the courts — had been considered and rejected by Congress and were mere policy letters that didn’t hold the weight of the law.
“The Trump Administration’s action to withdraw the policy letters simply reestablished the legal policies consistent with the law. Not only did the Trump Administration have the authority to withdraw this guidance letter, it had a duty to do so,” stated Sessions, as he noted that even Obama himself had repeatedly said he had no authority to make such policies into law.
As Congress has the sole authority to make or not make laws, and the executive to enforce them, “The judicial branch has no power to eviscerate the lawful directives of Congress — nor to enjoin the executive branch from enforcing such mandates.”
Sessions closed by slamming the courts for their efforts to direct and modify executive policies, which ignores the specified separation of powers in the Constitution and undermines the executive branch abilities to enact policies that serve to protect the nation.
“The Trump Administration and this Department of Justice will continue to aggressively defend the executive branch’s lawful authority and duty to ensure a lawful system of immigration for our country,” Sessions concluded, making it clear that this particular battle over executive powers and immigration policies was far from finished.
Whether Sessions has been “sleeping” or not remains up for debate, but he was certainly wide awake for this ruling on DACA and made it crystal clear where the administration stands on the courts interjecting themselves into executive branch policy decisions.