Roberts Sides with Supreme Court Liberals to Stop Trump Undoing DACA

The Supreme Court has ruled against the Trump administration bid to phase out the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which has, for years, allowed hundreds of thousands of people brought to the U.S. illegally as children to live and work in the country.

In a 5-4 ruling delivered on Thursday, Chief Justice John Roberts, who was considered the swing vote, sided with liberal justices in determining that the Trump administration's bid to end the DACA program was "arbitrary and capricious."

Writing the majority opinion, Roberts made clear that the decision was not a commentary on whether DACA should exist. However, he said the Department of Homeland Security had violated the Administrative Procedure Act in its bid to end the program.

"We address only whether the agency complied with the procedural requirement that it provide a reasoned explanation for its action," Roberts wrote. "Here the agency failed to consider the conspicuous issues of whether to retain forbearance and what if anything to do about the hardship to DACA recipients.

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"That dual failure raises doubts about whether the agency appreciated the scope of its discretion or exercised that discretion in a reasonable manner," he said. "The appropriate recourse is therefore to remand to DHS so that it may consider the problem anew."

While the decision casts some doubt upon the future, it will come as a relief to the roughly 650,000 immigrants who are believed to currently enjoy protection from deportation under DACA.

For months, they have waited to find out their fate, with their futures resting in the Supreme Court's hands.

In a statement published on Twitter, United We Dream, the largest immigrant youth-led organization in the nation, which has advocated on behalf of Dreamers, said it was still "analyzing" the implications of the decision. Newsweek has contacted the group for further comment.

Meanwhile, Juan Escalante, a prominent DACA beneficiary and advocate for undocumented immigrants said he and other Dreamers were "celebrating the #DACA ruling."

Still, he said in a series of tweets, Dreamers are "always aware of the fragile nature of the #DACA protections, particularly in light of the Trump Admin's continued attacks on immigrant communities."

"The Trump Admin must leave DACA in place and reopen new applications," he said.

The reality, Escalante said, is that DACA recipients "have lived in fear and uncertainty for years."

"Today's ruling is nothing short of a fragment of certainty in our lives, as we continue to work, contribute and give back to the country that we call home: The United States."

Escalante also referenced the context that the ruling arrives in, as protesters continue to demand that systemic racism and police brutality be addressed in the U.S. following the killing of George Floyd.

"We're also aware that it comes as our nation is directly confronting its long history of targeting Black people, and when communities across America are actively fighting over an affirmative version of who survives in America," Escalante said.

In a statement shared with Newsweek, Families Belong Together organizer and DACA recipient Cheska Mae Perez said: "This decision is delivered at a time of tremendous pain for Black people, who know far too well the experience of their families and communities being torn apart due to systemic racism and white supremacy⁠—from criminalization, mass incarceration and detention to deportation."

"The fight for justice for the undocumented community is deeply connected to the fight for justice for Black people. While this decision is a step in the right direction, more must be done to protect our communities," Perez said.

"Right now, we need the government to prioritize the safety of all Americans, instead of doubling down on its draconian immigration agenda for political gain," the organizer added. "It is time for Congress and the Trump administration to uphold the wishes of the American people by taking proper action on anti-Black violence, including the end to the deportation of Black undocumented immigrants occurring amid the pandemic, and ensuring permanent protections for [Temporary Protected Status holders], Dreamers, and their families. The United States is our home and we are here to stay."

The case before the court was Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California, with justices having been tasked with determining whether the Trump administration followed the correct procedures in terminating DACA.

Plaintiffs in the case had argued that the government had not followed the correct protocol and had violated the Administrative Procedure Act, a federal statute that governs the way in which federal administrative agencies can establish regulations.

The Trump administration's bid to phase-out DACA has been a years-long fight.

The program had initially been announced by former President Barack Obama on June 15, 2012 in an executive branch memorandum. On August 15 that same year, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) agency began accepting applications for the program.

According to the Pew Research Center, by the end of 2019, about 649,000 immigrants had work permits and protection from deportation under DACA, even as the Trump administration sought to dissolve the program.

The Trump administration first launched its efforts to phase out DACA in September 2017. However, the implementation of the phaseout was deferred for six months as Congress tried to pass the DREAM Act or another piece of legislation that would provide protections for undocumented immigrants.

The extension expired on March 5, 2018, but the Trump administration's bid to end the program was once again blocked by a number of lower courts, who ruled in favor of plaintiffs who argued that the decision violated the Administrative Procedure Act.

The Trump administration appealed the decision, pushing the case up to the Supreme Court, where President Donald Trump had previously appeared confident he would see victory.

Following the Supreme Court's ruling, Trump appeared to hit out at the Supreme Court, tweeting: "These horrible & politically charged decisions coming out of the Supreme Court are shotgun blasts into the face of people that are proud to call themselves Republicans or Conservatives."

"We need more Justices or we will lose our 2nd. Amendment & everything else. Vote Trump 2020!" he said.

Shortly after, the president added: "Do you get the impression that the Supreme Court doesn't like me?"

Earlier this week on Monday, the Supreme Court also delivered a major victory for LGBTQ+ rights, ruling that a landmark federal law barring workplace discrimination also protects gay and transgender workers from discrimination.

Despite the government's efforts to shut down the DACA program, there has been overwhelming support in America for creating a legal pathway for Dreamers to stay in the U.S.

In a poll published on Wednesday, the Pew Research Center found that of 9,654 U.S. adults surveyed between June 4 to 10, 74 percent were in favor of a new law giving Dreamers permanent legal status in the U.S., while just 24 percent expressed opposition to such a measure.

Democrats were found to be significantly more in favor of allowing Dreamers to live and work in the U.S. than Republicans, with 91 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents saying they were in support of the idea, while around just over half (54 percent) of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents felt the same.

The poll also found support for the idea to vary by race and ethnicity, with 88 percent of Hispanics in favor of granting legal status to Dreamers, with similar shares of both U.S.-born and immigrant Hispanics in agreement.

Meanwhile, 82 percent of black respondents said they would support such a measure, while 72 percent of Asian American participants said they were also in favor. The number was lower among white participants, with 69 percent saying they would support the measure.

DACA Supreme Court
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) demonstrators stand outside the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on June 15, 2020. JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty
Roberts Sides with Supreme Court Liberals to Stop Trump Undoing DACA | U.S.