The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected President Donald Trump’s effort to end legal protections for 650,000 young immigrants, the second stunning election-season rebuke from the court in a week after its ruling that it’s illegal to fire people because they’re gay or transgender.
The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the program that protects immigrants who were brought to the country as children and allows them to work. The court on Thursday ruled President Donald Trump didn’t properly end the program, which then-President Barack Obama created in 2012. Trump attempted to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in 2017 shortly after being elected on a largely anti-immigrant platform. Here’s what the high court’s decision means:
Immigrants who are part of the 8-year-old Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program will retain their protection from deportation and their authorization to work in the United States — safe almost certainly at least through the November election, immigration experts said.
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 said the administration did not take the proper steps to end DACA, rejecting arguments that the program is illegal and that courts have no role to play in reviewing the decision to end it. 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.
Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the liberal wing of the court in a 5-4 decision. Roberts, citing the Administrative Procedure Act, called the administration’s reasoning for ending the protections “arbitrary and capricious.”
The justices rejected administration arguments that the eight-year-old Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) is illegal and that courts have no role to play in reviewing the decision to end it.
“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.”
Trump, through the Department of Homeland Security, committed in September 2017 to ending the program, leading to the court challenges. He blasted the decision in a series of tweets on Thursday, calling it “horrible and politically charged.”
Trump didn’t hold back in his assessment of the court’s work, hitting hard at a political angle. “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. We need more Justices or we will lose our 2nd Amendment & everything else. Vote Trump 2020!” he wrote on Twitter, apparently including the LGBT ruling as well.
DACA was created by President Barack Obama in 2012 after intense pressure from immigrant advocates who wanted protections for the young immigrants who were mostly raised in the U.S. but lacked legal status.
The program protects them from deportation — granting a two-year reprieve that can be extended and by issuing a work permit and a Social Security number.
DACA recipients must meet several requirements, including having no criminal record. Immigrants who are accepted into the program and later get arrested face deportation to their home country.
They also must have been 30 or younger when the program was launched and brought to the U.S. before age 16.
The application cost is nearly $500, and permits must be renewed every two years. The application and renewal process take several weeks, and many immigrants hire lawyers to help navigate the process.
DACA does not give beneficiaries legal U.S. residency; they are simply given a reprieve from deportation while being allowed to legally work. The overwhelming majority of DACA recipients are from Mexico. One in four of them live in California.
Frustration grew during the Obama administration over repeated failures to pass the “Dream Act,” which would have provided a path to legal U.S. citizenship for young immigrants brought to the country as children.
The last major attempt to pass the legislation was in 2011. Immigrant activists staged protests and participated in civil disobedience in an effort to push Obama to act after Congress did not pass legislation. DACA is different than the Dream Act because it does not provide a pathway to legal residency or citizenship. Still, DACA recipients are often referred to as “Dreamers” — a reference to the earlier proposals that failed in Congress before Obama’s action.
Years of impasse in Congress over passing comprehensive immigration reform are what prompted then-president Barack Obama to create DACA by executive order in the first place, in 2012. The program gives people two-year renewable reprieves from the threat of deportation while also allowing them to work.
DACA recipients were elated by the ruling. “We’ll keep living our lives in the meantime,” said Cesar Espinosa, a DACA recipient who leads the Houston immigration advocacy group FIEL. “We’re going to continue to work, continue to advocate.”