Supreme Court Rules that the Trump Administration's Rescission of DACA was Unlawful
On June 18, 2020 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Trump administration’s 2017 termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, more commonly referred to as the “DACA” program, was unlawful. DACA is a program introduced in 2012 by President Barack Obama as a temporary measure to shield from deportation immigrants who were brought into the United States as children and did not have any lawful immigration status. The protection lasts for two years at a time and is renewable. However, DACA only allows its recipients to be lawfully present in the United States and does not provide a pathway to citizenship or permanent residency.
In September of 2017, former attorney general Jeff Sessions asked then–acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke to rescind DACA because, he claimed, it was illegal. After the Trump administration announced it would be terminating the DACA program, there were several court challenges that sought to stop this from going into effect. As a result of these legal challenges, from August 2019 until Thursday’s decision, individuals with DACA or those who have had DACA in the past could still continue to renew their benefits on a two-year basis. However, the administration did succeed in preventing any further first-time applications from being accepted.
The case made its way to the Supreme Court, where the justices had to decide whether the way in which the Trump administration violated federal law or not. Neither party to the case disputed that the administration had the authority to rescind it, an important distinction. However, in a 5-4 decision, the majority ultimately ruled that the Trump administration did not comply with the procedural requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) when it terminated the DACA program.
What this means is that the court’s decision restores the DACA program completely, and both initial and renewal applications should now be accepted by USCIS. This decision, although narrow, is a huge victory for immigrant communities and the nearly 700,000 DACA recipients in the United States. But it is important to remember that the Supreme Court’s decision still allows the Trump administration to try to end the DACA program again in a lawful manner. Only Congress can take action to create a permanent solution for DACA recipients through federal legislation, so the fight isn’t over yet.