DACA plaintiff: Roberts made right decision

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The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected President Donald Trump’s effort to end legal protections for 650,000 young immigrants, his second stunning election-season rebuke from the court in a week after Monday’s ruling that it’s illegal to fire people because they’re gay or transgender.

For now, the young immigrants retain their protection from deportation and their authorization to work in the United States.

“It’s a huge victory for the immigrant movement. I think we were not expecting that,” said New York resident Antonio Alarcon, DACA recipient and a plaintiff in a lawsuit that challenged the Trump administration’s attempt to end the protections offered by President Barack Obama.  

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 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals 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 on Twitter..

Roberts wrote for the court that the administration did not pursue the end of the program properly.

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. 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.

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.

Thursday’s ruling was the second time in two years that Roberts and the liberal justices faulted the administration for the way it went about a policy change. Last year, the court forced the administration to back off a citizenship question on the 2020 census.

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