Supreme Court Sides With Dreamers, Rules Trump Bid to Rescind DACA Unlawful

Supreme Court Sides With Dreamers, Rules Trump Bid to Rescind DACA Unlawful

Supreme Court

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that President Donald Trump’s bid to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was unlawful, dealing a blow to the president on a signature domestic policy issue.

Chief Justice John Roberts delivered the five to four decision, which capstones a first term for Trump that has seen little progress on immigration, to the disappointment of his supporters.

DACA delays deportation for individuals who entered the country illegally as children. Recipients are eligible for benefits like work permits, though DACA status must be reauthorized every two years. There are approximately 700,000 DACA enrollees.

President Trump has promised to strike a deal with Congress affording lasting protections for DACA recipients in exchange for border control measures. Such a grand bargain looks dim after Thursday’s decision, with congressional attention fixated on the coronavirus pandemic and a general election in the offing. The president and Senate Republicans have nonetheless discussed moving a legislative package that protects so-called Dreamers after the Court’s decision. Solutions could be difficult to come by even among Republicans, as GOP lawmakers have proved somewhat fractious on immigration issues.

Former vice president Joe Biden has promised to extend DACA by executive order if he prevails in November. The program is generally popular with the public. Surveys consistently show voters favor legal protections for enrollees.

No one disputes that the president has the power to end DACA. Instead, the focus of Thursday’s case is whether administration officials followed procedural rules when terminating the program.

The Trump administration set DACA’s termination in motion in September 2017, when former attorney general Jeff Sessions sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) advising that the program is unlawful and should be rescinded. DHS then announced it would stop accepting DACA renewal applications, citing the Sessions letter and a 2015 decision of the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that struck down a related amnesty program.

The decision was immediately challenged in federal courts around the country. Federal trial judges in California, New York, and Washington, D.C., sided with the challengers and ordered DHS to resume processing DACA renewal applications.

Broadly speaking, the lower courts found that DACA’s rescission was not adequately justified. In their view, the government’s explanation was too cursory given the stakes for Dreamers, and its conclusion that DACA is unlawful was wrong, meaning it cannot serve as a basis for ending the program. Ted Olson, a Republican lawyer and former solicitor general who represents DACA recipients, opened his argument before the Supreme Court in November by sketching that position.

“The government’s termination of DACA triggered abrupt, tangible, adverse consequences and substantial disruptions in the lives of 700,000 individuals, their families, employers, communities, and the Armed Forces,” Olson told the justices. “That decision required the government to provide an accurate, reasoned, rational, and legally sound explanation. It utterly failed to do so.”

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