More than 700,000 people can breathe a little easier after the Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was illegally rescinded and must remain in place for now.
In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the Trump administration violated the Administrative Procedures Act when it “arbitrarily and capriciously” rescinded the DACA program in September 2017 for more than 700,000 recipients across the country, and an estimated nearly 30,000 recipients in the Rio Grande Valley.
The Trump administration’s reasoning for rescinding the program was that the program was unlawful, but the court ruled they failed to consider the issues that would arise from rescission.
“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 court stated in part. “That dual failure raises doubts about whether the agency appreciated the scope of its discretion or exercised that discretion in a reasonable manner. The appropriate recourse is therefore to remand to DHS so that it may consider the problem anew.”
The Trump administration rescinded the President Obama-era program on Sept. 5, 2017, stating it would “wind down” the program, and stop taking new applications from eligible immigrants, and renewals would only be accepted through March 5, 2018.
DACA was set to expire in March 2018 but litigation in the federal courts kept the program alive pending the court arguments.
Announced by U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano on June 15, 2012, the program allows people who came to the country as children and meet several guidelines, to request consideration of deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal.
DACA provides nearly 800,000 immigrants a reprieve from deportation and the ability to work legally in the U.S — but does not provide a path for citizenship. More than 107,000 DACA recipients live in Texas, according to recent estimates.
Nearly three years after the Trump administration tried to rescind the Obama-era program, designed to provide the recipients legal protection, support for the program and the adults who were children when they were brought to the country, is at an all-time high.
According to recent polls, DACA recipients received support from Democrats and Republicans who responded; 85% in favor of recipients, while only 13% disapprove of them.
Opponents of the Obama-era program, like then-U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, derided the program because it came as an executive action from then-President Obama, after Congress failed to pass legislation on a pathway for legal status for immigrants.
Sessions said the program was “an unconstitutional exercise by the Executive Branch,” and an “an open-ended circumvention of immigration laws.”
The Trump administration argued to the Supreme Court that DACA should be ended, and that regardless of the program’s legality, the administration — specifically the Department of Homeland Security — should be allowed to end it, adding that the courts would not have jurisdiction over the decision to do so.
The court said, among other things, that the administration’s executive action to end the program was an action within their purview; and added that DHS could opt to end the program in the future if executed legally.
Shortly after the decision was handed down; President Trump expressed his discontent via Twitter.
“Do you get the impression that the Supreme Court doesn’t like me?” Trump tweeted.
“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!”
Representatives for the American Civil Liberties Union, one of many civil rights groups at the front of the battle against the rescission, released a statement regarding the court’s decision.
“The Supreme Court rightly ruled in favor of over 700,000 citizens in waiting, their families, and our country’s future. The courts and the American people agree: It’s time for President Trump and Stephen Miller to end their crusade against Dreamers and immigrants writ large. This decision allows DACA recipients to live and work without the daily fear of deportation, and confirms what we have always known: America is their home,” Andrea Flores, ACLU’s deputy director of immigration said in a prepared statement.
“Today, we celebrate but know that the fight is not over. For nearly three years, DACA recipients have lived in a legal limbo brought on by the Trump administration. The House of Representatives has already passed H.R. 6, the American Dream and Promise Act, and it is incumbent upon the Senate to do the same to permanently protect Dreamers. We won’t rest until Dreamers can.”
The decision could impact as many as an estimated more than 30,000 recipients in the RGV.
U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, applauded the court’s decision Thursday.
Gonzalez also added that DACA recipients deserve a legal path to citizenship.
“In the midst of a global pandemic, the Supreme Court has delivered the country some good news. Dreamers and DACA recipients are here to stay. They are contributing members of our society and are Americans in every way except on paper,” Gonzalez said. “Even a Trump loaded bench resolved this question in the favor of DACA recipients, and so let us move past the arguments and enact legislation to provide these individuals with a path toward citizenship.”
In a social media post, La Union del Pueblo Entero, LUPE, a local immigrant advocacy group, reacted to the court’s decision.
“This is one of the best decisions we could have got from the Supreme Court. This means that DACA renewals will continue for the time being,” the group posted Thursday morning.
Abraham Diaz, LUPE’s education specialist, expressed his happiness during a phone interview shortly after the decision came down.
“I think it’s the best news we’ve received this year,” Diaz said. “This year has been tragedy after tragedy; and on the heels of the anniversary of DACA, this feels like the best news.”
Diaz said the fact that DACA recipients, like himself, can continue on the program, potentially with the promise that new applications will be accepted as well.
Asked about the possibility that the administration would attempt to end the program again; Diaz opted to focus on Thursday’s decision.
“For now, we’re going to cherish the moment, we knew that before Trump took office his purpose was to create an anti-immigration agenda but DACA recipients are still going to fight back,” he said.
He said the ruling today was a culmination of all the work DACA recipients and their allies put in since the program was ended in September 2017.
“This (victory) is due to the work of DACA recipients; those who filed lawsuits against the federal government, for all their hard work — we’re at the decision we are at today,” Diaz said.
If the administration attempts to end the program, Diaz said he and others will continue to fight for a pathway to citizenship.
“We are celebrating and breathing a sigh of relief today, but we know the fight continues,” Juanita Valdez-Cox, LUPE’s executive director said.
“This decision leaves the door open for Trump to turn around and try again to end DACA. Which means that the American people have a choice to make this November. They can choose to protect immigrants or choose to put them in harm’s way. Immigrant youth are leading the charge, but it is up to the American people to do their part to protect immigrant youth from deportation.”