Allowing it to Continue in Effect For Now
In a totally unexpected decision, the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that the Trump Administration improperly moved to rescind an Obama-era program that has protected hundreds of thousands of young people brought to the United States illegally while they were children, permitting the program to continue, for now. The Court issued its 5-4 opinion, written by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr, on Thursday, June 18, 2020, throwing the ball into the hands of the Trump Administration to decide if it will make another attempt to end the popular program.
Joining the Chief Justice in the 5-4 decision were the four Court liberals, Associate Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Steven G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elana Kagan.
In the ruling, Roberts wrote that the Administration violated the Administrative Procedures Act when it attempted to rescind the program, saying that it did not properly weigh how ending the program would affect those who had come to rely on its protections against deportation, and the ability to work legally. He wrote in his opinion that the Administration had not "complied with the procedural requirement that it provide a reasoned explanation for its action. Here the agency failed to consider the conspicuous issues of whether to retain forbearance and what if anything to do about the hardship to DACA recipients. That dual failure raises doubts about whether the agency appreciated the scope of its discretion or exercised that discretion in a reasonable manner.”
Reaction from Presidents Trump and Obama. Reacting to the decision of the Court, President Trump issued a statement via twitter, in which he wrote, ""These horrible & politically charged decisions coming out of the Supreme Court are shotgun blasts into the face of people that are proud to call themselves Republicans or Conservatives," and asked, "Do you get the impression that the Supreme Court doesn’t like me?" As of the time of this writing, however, neither the President or anyone in his Administration had indicated what the Administration's next steps on DACA will be.
For his part, former President Barack Obama, who created the DACA program, issued a statement via twitter which said, "Eight years ago this week, we protected young people who were raised as part of our American family from deportation. Today, I'm happy for them, their families, and all of us. We may look different and come from everywhere, but what makes us American are our shared ideals"
Origins and Contours of DACA. Today's Court action relates to the legality of the Trump Administration's efforts to end the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, a program announced by President Obama in a speech in the White House Rose Garden on June 15, 2012. President Obama acted to protect DACA children administratively in the wake of the inability of Congress to pass legislation addressing their situation.
DACA has provided temporary work authorization and temporary relief from deportation to eligible beneficiaries. To be eligible, individuals had to be present in the United States unlawfully after being brought in as children before their 16th birthday and prior to June 2007. They had to currently be in school, a high school graduate or be honorably discharged from the military. They also had to be under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012, and not have been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor or three other misdemeanors, or otherwise pose a threat to national security. The program provided for a one-year status, that could be renewed each year. It did not provide its beneficiaries permanent lawful status or a path to citizenship.
It has been estimated that as many as 909,700 people have been protected by DACA at one time or another since its inception. About 80 percent of the beneficiaries were born in Mexico.
In November 2014, President Barack Obama announced changes to DACA which would expand it to include undocumented immigrants who entered the country prior to 2010, eliminate the requirement that applicants be younger than 31 years old, and lengthen the renewable period of protection to two years. That expansion was challenged in court, however, and was enjoined by a district court in Texas.
Opposition. Most Republicans in Congress at the time denounced President Obama's moves both to create DACA and to expand it, asserting that the President does not have the authority to create such a program.
DACA itself, was challenged in court by immigration restrictionists, including attorneys general in a number of Republican-controlled states. Notwithstanding those challenges, the program remained in effect throughout the remainder of the Obama Administration and through the early months of the Trump Administration.
Trump Administration Recission. During his presidential campaign, candidate Trump expressed his opposition to DACA, declaring he would repeal it on "day one" of his presidency, In reality, though, he waited until September to try to bring the program to close. On September 5, 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the repeal of DACA. He stated that implementation of the shutdown would be suspended for six months, permitting both the status and employment authorizations that expired during the ensuing six months to continue to be renewed. A White House memo at the time stated that DACA recipients should "use the time remaining on their work authorizations to prepare for and arrange their departure from the United States."
Advocates and stakeholders filed suit against the Administration, seeking to block the repeal of DACA. They won in the lower courts, and the Administration was temporarily enjoined from shutting down the program while it made its way to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court granted certiorari to hear three cases related to the DACA, consolidating the cases into one. The three cases were Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California, originally heard in the District Court of Northern California, Trump v. NAACP, originally heard in the District Court of the District of Columbia; and McAleenan v. Vidal, originally heard in the District Court of Eastern New York. All three cases challenged the Department of Homeland Security's authority to end the DACA program, arguing that doing so would violate the Administrative Procedure Act and due process under the Fifth Amendment.
On November 12, 2019, the Supreme Court heard arguments for and against the Trump administration's decision to rescind the program.