High court rejects Trump’s attempt to end DACA

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By Austin R. Ramsey

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The U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 Thursday to reject President Donald Trump’s three-year endeavor to end a program that protects young immigrants from deportation.

DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, eliminated the threat of removal for some 800,000 undocumented immigrants and bypassed a stalled Congress in 2012. It was one of President Barack Obama’s  hallmark policies. Acting on a campaign promise, Trump ordered the Department of Homeland Security in 2017 to repeal the program, calling it an unconstitutional overreach of presidential power to act without approval from Congress. That order was met with legal challenges, primarily over the way Homeland Security implemented it. Many of those lawsuits made their way to the high court, which heard oral arguments late last year. 

Writing for the majority in Thursday’s ruling, Chief Justice John Roberts said that Homeland Security had failed to adequately provide a “reasoned explanation” for its action, violating the Administrative Procedure Act.

“Its failure to do so was arbitrary and capricious,” Roberts wrote.

The ruling marked a major victory for DACA recipients, often called “dreamers,” many of whom were brought to the U.S. as young children and have spent most of their lives here. 

“I cried tears of joy a few minutes ago when I heard the decision of the Supreme Court on DACA,” said an emotional Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., on the Senate floor Thursday. “These wonderful DACA kids and their families have a huge burden lifted off their shoulders.”

But the court’s decision was conspicuously narrow, leaving room for the administration to resubmit its claim, which Trump said Friday he intends to do.

 “We will be submitting enhanced papers shortly in order to properly fulfil [sic] the Supreme Court’s ruling & request of yesterday,” the president wrote on Twitter. 

It is important to note that the court did not ask the administration to do anything. Instead, Roberts made clear the court had considered only the manner by which the policy was rescinded, not the merits of the policy itself. 

“We do not decide whether DACA or its rescission are sound policies,” Roberts wrote. “ ‘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.”

According to a 2018 Pew Research poll, 74% of Americans favor legal status for DACA recipients.

Trump’s posturing is just the latest in his efforts to permanently restructure immigration in the U.S. 

Trump has insisted that Congress must act on “dreamers,” so-named for the DREAM Act, a nearly 20-year-old legislative proposal to provide a permanent legal status for DACA recipients that has repeatedly stalled on the Hill.

But in its latest round of debates in the Senate in 2018, disagreement over the proposal came down to the subject of legal immigration. The White House insisted on cuts to family-based migration and the diversity visa program.

The president has spent more than four years railing against undocumented immigrants and legal immigration “loopholes” while building a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. 

In announcing his presidential campaign almost exactly five years ago, he characterized Mexican immigrants as drug smugglers and rapists.

“They’re not sending you,” he said. “They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

In early 2018, the president used a slur to describe conditions in Haiti, El Salvador and African countries, according to The Washington Post. He complained aloud about immigrants from those countries and asked why the U.S. couldn’t attract immigrants from Norway.

“Why do we need more Haitians?” Trump said, according to the Post, which credited individuals in the meeting. “Take them out.” 

Before the midterm election later that year, Trump called immigration along the Southern border an “invasion.”

“They have violently overrun the Mexican border,” he said.

Trump’s nationalist policies on access to and from American soil may appear fragmented or disjointed. But the legal framework of immigration in the U.S. has changed dramatically over the last four years, and some experts expect it may never be the same.

The president has gone through five Homeland Security secretaries, three of whom maintained acting status through their terms. He instituted a travel ban now on its fourth iteration, adding and removing multiple countries multiple times. He was behind policies to separate children from their families when illegally crossing the border, only to rush to reunite those families under strict court order.

IRW has tracked the way Trump’s immigration policies are reshaping immigration in the U.S. since the day he took office, compiling a comprehensive list of more than 100 detailed policy proposals, legal battles and more.

What will become of the hundreds of thousands of dreamers in the U.S. leading up to and after the November election remains to be seen, but IRW will continue its work monitoring Trump administration actions and their effects.