By Michael Tan, J.D. / 02.28.2018
ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project
In a sharp rebuke to the Trump administration, the Supreme Court today refused to hear the government’s challenge to a lower court’s decision ordering the government to keep in place the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). Since the administration announced last fall that it was ending the program on March 5, many DACA recipients have already lost their residence and work permits.
While the court’s decision is good news, it doesn’t end the uncertainty, confusion, and fear of deportation for the hundreds of thousands of undocumented young people who came to the U.S. as children.
The Trump administration ordered an end to DACA in September, claiming that it was unconstitutional. The University of California, numerous states, local governments, nonprofit organizations, and several Dreamers, including a young man from Brooklyn named Martin Batalla Vidal, who works at a nursing home and rehabilitation center, challenged the administration’s order.
On Jan. 9, a federal judge in the Northern District of California issued a nationwide injunction against the shuttering of the DACA program and ordered the Trump administration to continue accepting renewal applications for DACA. Then, on Feb. 13, a judge in the Eastern District of New York issued a similar ruling in the Batalla Vidal case.
Both courts ruled that the administration’s rationale for suspending the DACA program — that it was unconstitutional and conflicted with the immigration laws — was incorrect and violated the Administrative Procedure Act, which is a 1946 law that regulates federal agencies and provides judicial oversight over their behavior. The law prohibits “arbitrary and capricious” actions by federal agencies and provides a safeguard against unchecked power.
The Trump administration appealed the California decision to the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and also simultaneously sought review by the Supreme Court, asking it to take the case before an appeals court ruling. The administration had hoped it might be able to skip over the appellate court and have the case heard by the Supreme Court and decided by June. Today, the court refused, indicating that it saw no reason circumvent the judicial process.
The Supreme Court’s refusal provides a reprieve for DACA recipients, but it by no means takes away the urgent need for Congress to come up with a legislative solution. Even with DACA renewals continuing, nearly 800,000 DACA recipients live in fear that the lives they have built in the United States are in jeopardy.