- The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled in favor of the young immigrants shielded from deportation by an Obama-era program that President Donald Trump sought to end.
- The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was implemented in 2012 and offered legal work permits and temporary protection to a group of young immigrants who would otherwise be subject to deportation.
- The justices’ decision was split along typical ideological lines, with Chief Justice John Roberts siding with the court’s four liberal-leaning members to reject Trump’s bid to end the program.
- Roberts wrote in his opinion that the ruling did not prevent the Trump administration from trying again to end DACA.
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The Obama-era program shielding 700,000 young immigrants from deportation will remain intact despite President Donald Trump’s efforts to end it, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday in one of the most significant decisions of the year.
The ruling is a major defeat for Trump, who tried to terminate the program in September 2017 but was blocked by several lower courts from fully ending it.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program offers something of a lifeline to certain young immigrants, known as “Dreamers,” who were brought to the US as children but lacked legal status.
Under DACA’s protection, the young immigrants are given quasi-legal status — though they were not considered authorized immigrants, they were offered temporary protection from deportation and were given two-year, renewable work permits.
President Barack Obama implemented DACA in 2012 after Congress failed several times to pass legislation that would have enacted a permanent solution for Dreamers.
The decision was split along typical ideological lines, with four of the court’s conservative-leaning justices voting to allow Trump to end the program and the court’s four liberal-leaning justices voting to bar Trump from ending it. Chief Justice John Roberts, who was considered the swing vote, sided with the court’s liberals and wrote the majority opinion.
Though Thursday’s ruling was a major victory for immigration advocates, the Supreme Court did not fully prevent Trump from ending the program in the future. Roberts noted in his opinion that the Department of Homeland Security could try again.
“We do not decide whether DACA or its rescission are sound policies,” Roberts wrote. “We address only whether the agency complied with the procedural requirement that it provide a reasoned explanation for its action. 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.”
Unlike much of the political debate about DACA — which largely focuses on whether the Obama administration had the authority to create such a program — the debate that played out in the Supreme Court revolved largely around whether the Trump administration demonstrated adequate legal reasoning in ending it.
The Trump administration had argued that DACA was unconstitutional and would not hold up in the courts, since numerous conservative states had threatened to sue over the program. But multiple lower courts have since ruled that the Trump administration’s legal reasoning did not justify ending DACA.
For instance, had Trump simply ended the program as a matter of policy preference, his decision would most likely have withstood lawsuits. But since the administration opted for a specific legal argument, the lower courts ruled that its reasoning was too weak.
But lawyers for the Department of Justice have continued to argue that since DACA was created though a president’s executive action, it could also be dismantled by a different president’s executive action.