WASHINGTON (CNN) — The Supreme Court on Thursday blocked the Trump administration’s attempt to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an Obama-era program that protects hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought to the US as children from deportation.
The 5-4 ruling was written by Chief Justice John Roberts and joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor.
In penning the opinion, Roberts once again sided with the liberals on the bench in a momentous dispute that will infuriate judicial conservatives who are still bitter that he once provided the deciding vote to uphold Obamacare.
The opinion is the second time in a week when the Supreme Court — bolstered with two of President Donald Trump’s nominees — has ruled against the Trump administration. Monday, the court said LGBTQ Americans are protected under the Civil Rights Act.
The ruling emphasizes that the administration failed to provide an adequate reason to justify ending the DACA program.
“We do not decide whether DACA or its rescission are sound policies,” Roberts wrote in the majority opinion. “‘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.”
It is a blow to the Trump administration, as immigration reform has been a lynchpin of Trump’s agenda. It means that for now, participants in the program can continue to renew membership in the program that offers them work authorization and temporary protection from deportation.
In his first reaction to the ruling, President Donald Trump retweeted a tweet featuring Justice Clarence Thomas’ dissent.
The decision is “an effort to avoid a politically controversial but legally correct decision,” Thomas wrote.
However, the Trump administration could move, again, to try to rescind the program, but this time the administration will have to provide a better explanation grounded in policy for its reason for termination.
“Today’s decision allows Dreamers to breathe a temporary sigh of relief,” said Professor Stephen Yale-Loehr of Cornell Law School. “The administration may try to terminate the DACA program with a better justification, but that will take months or years. In the meantime, Congress should enact permanent relief for Dreamers to end this drama once and for all.”
Luz Chavez, a DACA recipient based in Maryland, was at the steps of the Supreme Court when the decision came down Thursday.
“Right now, at the end of the day, our community won, right? We’ve been pushing for this for a long time. Immigrant youth are the reason why DACA was announced and created,” Chavez told CNN. “It’s exhilarating.”
Created by Obama after congressional stalemate
DACA, established in 2012, is available to any undocumented immigrant who came to the US under the age of 16, who had lived in the US since at least June of 2007, was enrolled in high school or graduated and had not been convicted of certain offenses.
An individual also had to pose no national security or public safety threats. Recipients who met the criteria became eligible for renewable, two-year grants of “deferred action” from removal. They were also eligible for work authorization and social security numbers. In return, however, they had to provide the government with certain identifying information.
After Trump came into office, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the program had been created “without proper authority” and only after Congress had rejected proposed legislation. The following day, Elaine Duke, the then-acting Secretary of Homeland Security, announced it would be phased out, pointing out that it had “legal and constitutional defects.”
Months later, after legal challenges had been launched, then-Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen issued a new memo laying out more policy-based justifications for winding down the program. She said, for example, that the program increased the risk of undermining public confidence in the rule of law.
Federal courts stepped in and said the administration had acted arbitrarily when phasing out the program in violation of the law. The courts pointed to the administration’s thin justification — reasoning Roberts and the Supreme Court eventually agreed with.
The administration moved aggressively asking the Supreme Court to lift the injunctions, and the President predicted success.
“We want to be in the Supreme Court on DACA,” Trump said. But the justices sat on the petition for months, before finally granting cert last term.
The plaintiffs, including the University of California, a handful of states and DACA recipients argue to the Supreme Court that the phase-out violated the Administrative Procedure Act, a federal law that governs how agencies can establish regulations.
One hundred and forty-three business associations and companies filed a brief in support of DACA stressing that its phase out will harm the economy. The brief points to research from the libertarian Cato Institute that estimates that companies will face an estimated $6.3 billion in costs to replace Dreamers “if they can even find new employees to fill the empty positions.”
And Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, filed a brief in support of DACA noting that his company employs 443 Dreamers who come from 25 different countries and four continents.
“We did not hire them out of kindness or charity,” Cook argued. “We did it because Dreamers embody Apple’s innovative strategy” he said. “They come from diverse backgrounds and display a wide range of skills and experiences that equip them to tackle problems from different perspectives.”
After the justices heard arguments in the case, supporters of DACA recipients also told the court that some 27,000 recipients were working on the front lines to fight Covid-19.
This story is breaking and will be updated.
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