The Supreme Court ruled Thursday against the Trump administration’s effort to end the Obama-era program that protects young immigrants brought to the country as children from deportation.
The court ruled that the administration’s decision to rescind the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program violated the Administrative Procedure Act.
In a 5-4 decision, with Chief Justice John Roberts joining the liberal members to author the opinion, the court said the move to eliminate the program that grants privileges to children who entered the U.S. illegally as minors was “arbitrary and capricious,” although they did not rule on the merits of the program itself.
“We do not decide whether DACA or its rescission are sound policies. ‘The wisdom’ of those decisions ‘is none of our concern,'” Roberts wrote in his opinion. “We address only whether the agency complied with the procedural requirement that it provide a reasoned explanation for its action.”
Roberts wrote that the administration “failed to consider the conspicuous issues of whether to retain forbearance,” as well as the impact the decision would have on DACA recipients who have relied on the program.
“That dual failure raises doubts about whether the agency appreciated the scope of its discretion or exercised that discretion in a reasonable manner,” Roberts wrote. “The appropriate recourse is therefore to remand to DHS so that it may consider the problem anew.”
At issue was a program created under executive order that gaveabout 700,000 people brought to the United States illegally as children the opportunity to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and become eligible for a work permit.
Hundreds of “Dreamers” and their supporters had rallied outside the court during the November oral arguments. Some carried signs, such as “Build Bridges, Not Walls.” President Trump at times seemed to be pressing instead for a legislative solution, and had tweeted earlier that morning that if the administration prevailed, “a deal will be made with the Dems for them to stay!”
The Trump administration announced its plan to phase out the program in 2017, only for the federal courts to rule that it could not apply retroactively and that DACA should be restarted in full. The White House fought back on those decisions, saying the president has broad authority over immigration enforcement policy.
The Justice Department had argued the DACA program is not working and is unlawful, and that the president should have the “absolute discretion” to adopt a revised overall immigration strategy. A dozen states led by Texas were among the parties backing the administration.
DACA proponents have argued that Trump’s planned termination violates federal law requiring adequate notice-and-comment periods before certain federal rules are changed, as well as other constitutional equal protection and due process guarantees.
They say the government has given only cursory explanations for justifying DACA’s demise. By contrast, they say, the economic and social benefits for Dreamers and for the country are indisputable.
A host of civil rights groups filed separate briefs in support, along with several states including New York and California.