Supreme Court Voids Trump Shutdown of ‘Dreamers’ Program

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DACA protest

Protesters block 5th Avenue outside of Trump Tower last September during s DACA protest. Photo by Megan Hadley/TCR

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the Trump administration cannot carry out its plan to shut down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which has allowed nearly 800,000 young people, known as “Dreamers,” to avoid deportation and remain in the U.S., NBC News reports.

The 5-4 decision is a big legal defeat for President Donald Trump on the issue of immigration, a major focus of his agenda.

The ruling said the government failed to give an adequate justification for ending the program. The administration could try again to shut it down by offering a more detailed explanation, but the White House might not want to end such a popular program during the presidential campaign.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the opinion, joined by the court’s liberal justices. Conservative justices dissented from parts of the ruling.

“We do not decide whether DACA or its rescission are sound policies,” Roberts said. “We address only whether the agency complied with the procedural requirement that it provide a reasoned explanation for its action.”

Dissenting Justice Samuel Alito declared that, “DACA was unlawful from the start, and
that alone is sufficient to justify its termination. But even if DACA were lawful, we would still have no basis for overturning its rescission.”

Immigration lawyers told the court after the case was argued last fall that frontline health care workers involved in responding to the coronavirus epidemic rely on about 27,000 DACA recipients, “including dentists, pharmacists, physician assistants, home health aides, technicians” and nearly 200 medical students.

“Termination of DACA during this national health emergency would be catastrophic,” they said in an April 2 filing. The Association of American Medical Colleges told the court last fall — well before the pandemic crisis — that the U.S. is unprepared “to fill the loss that would result if DACA recipients were excluded from the health care workforce.”

The court said the Department of Homeland Security did not act properly when it ordered the program ended in 2017.

In response to legal challenges, lower courts allowed DACA to keep going, letting young people in the program to reapply every two years and remain under its protection. Children of illegal immigrants were allowed to remain in the U.S. if they were under 16 when their parents brought them to the U.S. and if they arrived by 2007.

DACA’s defenders argued that federal law required the Trump administration to give a detailed explanation before trying to shut the program down, an action that would affect hundreds of thousands of people and the businesses that employ them.

Instead, they said, the government simply declared the program illegal. More than 100 business groups, including Apple and Microsoft, sought to preserve DACA, saying that many of their employees are part of the program.

More than 90 percent of DACA participants have a job. Nearly half are in school. Many don’t speak the language or know the culture of their home countries.

Ted Gest is president of Criminal Justice Journalists and Washington Bureau Chief of TCR.

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