Young immigrants in California reacted with a mixture of relief and gratitude over the Supreme Court ruling Thursday to reject President Donald Trump’s effort to end legal protections for 650,000 immigrants under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA).
For now, the young immigrants retain their protection from deportation and their authorization to work in the United States.
“Today’s Supreme Court decision to allow the DACA program to continue and to live on is really in line with what the majority of Americans want and what our immigrant communities truly deserve,” DACA recipient New Latthivongskorn said in a video call joined by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.
The 5-4 outcome, in which Chief Justice John Roberts and the four liberal justices were in the majority, seems certain to elevate the issue in Trump’s campaign, given the anti-immigrant rhetoric of his first presidential run in 2016 and immigration restrictions his administration has imposed since then.
The justices rejected administration arguments that the 8-year-old DACA Program is illegal and that courts have no role to play in reviewing the decision to end DACA. The program covers people who have been in the United States since they were children and are in the country illegally. In some cases, they have no memory of any home other than the U.S.
Trump didn’t hold back in his assessment of the court’s work, hitting hard at a political angle.
Roberts wrote for the court that the administration did not pursue the end of the program properly.
“We do not decide whether DACA or its rescission are sound policies,“ Roberts wrote. “We address only whether the agency 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.”
The Department of Homeland Security can try again, he wrote. But any new order to end the program, and the legal challenge it would provoke, would likely take months, if not longer.
The court’s four conservative justices dissented. Justice Clarence Thomas, in a dissent joined by Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch, wrote that DACA was illegal from the moment it was created under the Obama administration in 2012. Thomas called the ruling “an effort to avoid a politically controversial but legally correct decision.”
Alito wrote that federal judges had prevented DACA from being ended “during an entire Presidential term. Our constitutional system is not supposed to work that way.”
Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote in a separate dissent that he was satisfied that the administration acted appropriately in trying to end the program.
The program grew out of an impasse over a comprehensive immigration bill between Congress and the Obama administration in 2012. President Barack Obama decided to formally protect people from deportation while also allowing them to work legally in the U.S.
But Trump made tough talk on immigration a central part of his campaign and less than eight months after taking office, he announced in September 2017 that he would end DACA.
Immigrants, civil rights groups, universities and Democratic-led states quickly sued, and courts put the administration’s plan on hold.
The Department of Homeland Security has continued to process two-year DACA renewals so that hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients have protections stretching beyond the election and even into 2022. No new applications have been accepted since 2017, and it probably would take a court order to change that, Yale-Loehr said. “The short answer is no new applications will be accepted tomorrow. That will take time.”
The Supreme Court fight over DACA played out in a kind of legal slow motion. The administration first wanted the justices to hear and decide the case by June 2018. The justices said no. The Justice Department returned to the court later in 2018, but the justices did nothing for more than seven months before agreeing a year ago to hear arguments. Those took place in November and more than seven months elapsed before the court’s decision.