Supreme Court Prevents Trump Administration from Immediately Ending DACA

By: Devin Connolly

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) on Thursday issued its highly anticipated  decision on the future of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, more commonly referred to as DACA. In a significant victory for the almost 700,000 beneficiaries of the immigration policy and work permit program, the Court held that the Trump administration may not immediately end DACA because they failed to provide an adequate reason to justify ending the program and did not follow the required procedures.

DACA was created through an Executive Order signed by President Barack Obama, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) began accepting applications on August 15, 2012. The program’s foremost priority was to protect individuals from deportation that had entered the United States before their 16th birthday. In addition, if an applicant qualified for protection under DACA, they were also eligible to apply for work authorization from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). DACA gave hope and opportunity to hundreds of thousands of young immigrants who were brought to the United States as children and who have only known the U.S. as their home. It allowed them to legally work in this country, attend school, etc., all while being safe from deportation.

Under President Trump, DHS issued a memorandum in September of 2017 seeking to terminate DACA after they concluded that it was unlawful.  This termination was challenged in the courts, with an injunction upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and a second nationwide injunction issued by Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, ordering the government to continue to process DACA renewal applications as the legal battle continued. The case ultimately proceeded to be heard by Supreme Court.

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court held that the termination of the DACA program violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and that the decision to rescind DACA must be vacated. In the ruling, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, the Court stated that they were not deciding whether DACA or its recession are sound policies. Rather, they were only addressing whether the Trump administration “complied with the procedural requirement that it provide a reasoned explanation for its action.” The court found that the administration did not, and, as such, stated that the Trump administration’s rescission of DACA was “arbitrary and capricious.”

Despite this ruling, the future of DACA remains unclear. As Justice Alito said in his dissenting opinion, “the Court does not resolve the question of DACA’s rescission. Instead, it tells the Department of Homeland Security to go back and try again.” Whether the Trump administration tries again to terminate DACA, and how soon, is an open question. For now, USCIS will continue accepting renewal applications for current DACA beneficiaries, though the government may attempt to limit new first-time applications and advance parole applications.

The good news for now though is that DACA is still alive for hundreds of thousands of people who are proud to live in the United States, and who want nothing more than to lawfully work and contribute to their communities.

If you or a loved one has DACA, it is highly recommended that you seek the advice of a reputable immigration attorney to explore filing an extension of your current DACA and to explore other options for more permanent relief. Many new programs and changes to old ones have been implemented in the last several years and may provide a route to residency or employment authorization where none existed before.