The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the Trump administration could not immediately end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and deport nearly 700,000 immigrants who arrived as children.
The decision allows the Trump administration to end DACA in another attempt if it appropriately follows administrative law. Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court’s four liberal justices to form the decisive 5-4 majority.
The DACA program, established by President Barack Obama in 2012, protects undocumented immigrants who arrived as children from deportation. These immigrants, known as Dreamers, can obtain a work permit through DACA if they fit certain guidelines. Permits last two years and can be renewed. The program, however, does not provide a path to citizenship.
In the majority decision by Roberts, he said the “total rescission” of DACA was “arbitrary and capricious.” He clarified that the court was not weighing in on the soundness of the DACA policy.
“The wisdom’ of those decisions ‘is none of our concern.’ We address only whether the agency complied with the procedural requirement that it provide a reasoned explanation for its action,” Roberts wrote.
Of the five justices in the majority, only Justice Sonia Sotomayor said Trump administration’s decision to end DACA may have been “contaminated by impermissible discriminatory animus.” She quotes Trump’s previous racist comments toward Mexican immigrants and says Dreamers have grounds to further litigate their equal protection claims.
Over 90% of DACA recipients are employed and almost half are in school. The essential nature of their work has especially been seen during the coronavirus pandemic, as 27,000 DACA recipients are frontline healthcare workers.
Even before the pandemic last fall, the Association of American Medical Colleges told the court that the U.S. is ill-prepared to fill the positions of DACA recipients if they are not permitted to work in the healthcare industry.
DACA now has a 74% approval rating among U.S. adults, with 91% of Democratic support and 54% of Republican support. Though the Trump administration can try to rescind the program again, Republican leaders may wish to avoid running counter to public opinion in an election year.
Sources: CNN 06/18/20; The New York Times 06/18/20; NPR 06/18/20; NBC News 06/18/20.