June 22, 2020
Last Thursday, the Supreme Court of the United States delivered a 5-4 ruling blocking the Trump administration’s attempt to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, an Obama-era program shielding undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children from deportation. This ruling provides hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients temporary relief, allowing these individuals to continue to live and work in the United States without fear of deportation – at least for now.
The 5-4 ruling finds that the administration failed to provide an adequate reason to justify ending the DACA program. It was written by Chief Justice John Roberts and joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer, and Sonia Sotomayor. In his majority opinion, Justice Roberts made it very clear that the decision was not based in the legality of the program, but rather on “whether the agency complied with the procedural requirement that it provide a reasoned explanation for its action.”
For some background information, in 2017, the White House and the Department of Justice decided to cancel DACA and force leadership in the Department of Homeland Security to sign off on this change. The administration claimed that its lawyers found the program to be unlawful. The argument failed repeatedly in federal courts and, in 2018, the new head of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielson, attempted to revise the reasoning. The Court came back saying if there are new reasons, there needs to be a new decision and that Homeland Security could not “rely on reasons offered nine months after the rescission and after three different courts had identified flaws in the original explanation.”
While this is a huge victory for immigrants’ rights, there is still a possibility that the Trump administration could go back and try to end DACA again; the ruling does not prevent another attempt. However, experts say this is unlikely considering the narrow window to do so given the upcoming election. Trump described this decision as “horrible” and “politically charged,” as immigration is one of the pillars of his campaign platform. If he wins re-election, it is likely that he will come back and try to end DACA again, most likely with a more plausible argument against the legality of the program. Joe Biden, on the other hand, applauded the decision and promised to uphold the DACA program if he wins the presidency.
It is important to note that DACA does much more for immigrants than protect them from deportation. It allows its 700 thousand recipients to get work visas and driver’s licenses, to qualify for bank loans, to enroll in school, and to secure financial aid. DACA recipients are essential: economists estimate that without DACA recipients working, the US economy would lose hundreds of billions of dollars. Also, important: an estimated 27 thousand DACA recipients are essential healthcare workers delivering care on the front lines of the COVID-19 global health crisis.
It is important to add that DACA does not provide Dreamers with a clear path to citizenship, but maintaining it for the time being is a good step in the right direction. An immigration lawyer in New York, Luis Cortez, says that since Thursday’s decision, his phone has been ringing off the hook with questions about the DACA program and new registrations. Many Dreamers have not renewed their registration or have not registered at all in fear of deportation by the Trump administration.
Trump’s attempt to end this program is clear evidence of an administration corrupted by racism and xenophobia. DACA recipients are the next generation of workers, politicians, doctors, businesspersons, and Dreamers. Their contribution to American society and culture are profound and essential. For now, these Dreamers are here to stay.
Moreover, there is an urgent need for a fundamental and humane reform of nearly every aspect of our immigrations system — something the Republicans have long opposed. The appalling treatment of tens of thousands of desperate immigrants at the southern border and in many for-profit detention centers around the country is a stain on our democracy.
Emma Rose Lowder is an assistant in NOW’s Government Relations Department