PASADENA, Calif. -- A federal appeals court seemed concerned Tuesday about the likely harm that would result if the Trump administration's plan to end protections for so-called "Dreamers" goes forward, but wrestled with technical legal questions about the judges' ability to intervene.
During a hearing, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals acknowledged that the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, would have significant effects on 700,000 immigrants and their families.
The panel of three Democratic appointees is reviewing an appeal by the Trump administration of a preliminary injunction issued by a San Francisco federal judge in January that required the federal government to continue processing renewal applications of immigrants previously approved for the program.
Judge John B. Owens, an Obama appointee, asked whether the court could uphold the injunction on grounds that were not reached by the district judge.
Although challengers argued that the repeal of DACA amounted to unconstitutional discrimination, they asked for and received a ruling based on the argument that the recision was arbitrary and capricious.
A lawyer for the Trump administration said the 9th Circuit could not reach out to answer the constitutional question because there was no evidence presented on it in the lower court.
A lawyer for the challengers said the court could uphold the injunction on equal protection grounds.
Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw, a Clinton appointee, noted that the Supreme Court had not barred legal challenges of an agency's "action that disproportionally affects one protected group over another."
Immigrants from Mexico were the largest beneficiary of DACA.
U.S. Deputy Assistant Attorney General Hashim Mooppan argued that the administration had the legal right to end the program and its discretion could not be challenged on selective enforcement grounds.