What DACA Supreme Court Ruling Means for Dreamers' Futures

Activists and DACA recipients march up Broadway on February 15 during the start of their "Walk to Stay Home," a five-day, 250-mile walk from New York to Washington, D.C., to demand that Congress pass legislation to protect young immigrants who are not in the U.S. legally. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

The Supreme Court levied a blow to the Trump administration on Monday as it refused to review a federal ruling that keeps the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, partially alive.

Though their victory was well received, immigration advocates have cautioned that it will be short-lived unless Congress takes meaningful action to address the fate of the so-called Dreamers, young immigrants living in this country illegally who were brought here as children.

In its dismissal, the Court said the government's appeal of U.S. District Judge William Alsup's January ruling—which said Trump's attempt to end DACA was illegal—should go through the regular judicial process and be taken up first by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The White House responded forcefully, arguing that DACA "is clearly unlawful" and that Alsup's ruling in San Francisco is "a usurpation of legislative authority."

Related: DACA ruling against Trump shows judges are biggest opponent to immigration crackdowns

Essentially, the Court's denial keeps Alsup's injunction intact, allowing the nearly 700,000 current DACA recipients to renew their work and study permits, at least until the circuit court rules on the government's appeal sometime later this summer.

For Mariaelena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, a pro-immigrant advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., that's good news. "This was a great morning for Dreamers and their families," she said.

According to Hincapié, whose organization represents a plaintiff in a separate federal case in New York that, earlier this month, temporarily blocked Trump's attempt to end DACA, the Court's refusal to let the government skip part of the appeals process illustrates the judicial branch's ability to undermine the president's agenda.

"These legal challenges have resulted in important victories for immigrant communities," she said. "In denying the request to hear the California case, the Supreme Court has allowed our clients to have their day in court. The government has a right to appeal, but they tried to game the system by leapfrogging over the circuit court."

In Trump's criticism of the decision Monday, he again took a shot at the country's court system, reserving particular ire for the 9th Circuit's court, which has already frustrated the president's attempts to institute a travel ban.

"You know, we tried to get it moved quickly 'cause we'd like to help DACA," he said during a meeting Monday with governors. "I think everybody in this room wants to help with DACA, but the Supreme Court just ruled that it has to go through the normal channels, so it's going back in. There won't be any surprise.

"I mean, it's really sad when every single case filed against us—this is in the 9th Circuit—we lose, we lose, we lose, and then we do fine in the Supreme Court. But what does that tell you about our court system? It's a very, very sad thing. So DACA's going back, and we'll see what happens from there," Trump said.

Yet immigrant rights advocates warn that without congressional action, these short-term reprieves will not last.

"Today's ruling does not mean much for immigrants who do not qualify for DACA," said Greisa Martinez, policy and advocacy director for United We Dream, an immigrant rights group. "Trump and [Attorney General Jeff] Sessions are bullies—their goal is to not allow one more immigrant be protected under DACA. We need a permanent solution."

To Martinez, the best course of action is to pass a narrow legislative recourse that protects immigrant youth from deportation and grants them a viable path toward citizenship. Until then, the Dreamers and their families will live in fear of deportation.

"This administration has shown that they are aggressive," she said. "We are [dealing] with...someone who has aligned with white supremacist groups."

So far, Republicans and the White House have pushed for drastic reductions in legal immigration and billions of dollars for border enforcement measures in exchange for granting immigrant youths a decadelong path to citizenship.

But many Democrats and immigration advocates have balked at the GOP's offer, arguing that pitting one immigrant group against another is not the way forward.

"When you're talking about the communities Trump is going after, you're talking about Dreamers' parents and their families," said Anu Joshi, policy director at the New York Immigration Coalition. "This administration wants to reframe this country by cutting legal immigration in half. That's not something we're willing to bargain away. Immigrant communities make us strong as a country."

For his part, Trump has claimed that Democrats have not been pursuing the issue nearly as much as they have suggested.

"Senate Democrats and the House Democrats have totally abandoned DACA," he said during his speech Friday at the Conservative Political Action Conference. "They don't even talk to me about it. They've totally abandoned it,"

It is unlikely Congress will act before March 5, given that the federal injunctions keeping DACA alive will be in place for at least a few months. Also, there is mounting pressure to tackle other issues, particularly gun control.