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Jun 18, 2020

BREAKING: Supreme Court Upholds DACA Program

Catriona M. Davenport and Stephen Antwine

On Thursday, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the Department of Homeland Security’s decision to rescind Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was deemed invalid because the Trump administration made the change without compliance with proper procedural compliance.

This decision will benefit the more than 652,800 people currently availing of the program and marks a victory for DACA advocates. However, the Supreme Court made clear that they were not deciding on the political issues or “whether DACA or its recission are sound policies”. The case will now be remanded to the Department of Homeland Security so that they may consider the issue again.

DACA was enacted in 2012 by President Obama to allow young people raised in the United States without valid immigration status to remain and work in the U.S. for renewable periods of two years. Under the Trump administration, the program was rescinded in September 2017 and has been the subject of several court cases since its recission before making its way to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court upheld the program with Chief Justice Roberts delivering the decision of the majority. The focus of the decision was built around the tension between the program as a deferred enforcement initiative and elements of the program conferring benefits, such as Social Security and work authorization.

The Court reasoned that “DACA was not just a deferred enforcement program as argued by the government, rather, it is a program to solicit applicants who met the criteria for approval” and thus bestowing additional benefits.  By granting DACA, recipients “may request work authorization and are eligible for Social Security and Medicare.” As such, approval of DACA effectively results in applicants’ “adjudications” according to the Court, making “access to these types of benefits …an interest ‘courts often are called upon to protect.’”

Perhaps most importantly, the Court found that the “foundational principle of administrative law” allows judicial review of the “grounds that the agency invoked when it took action.” The Supreme Court focused much of its attention on the fact that the Department of Homeland Security “failed to consider…important aspects of the program before it.”  

The court rejected the arguments of the Department of Homeland Security in attempting to terminate the program, namely that the program was illegal and its termination was required to “maintain public confidence in the rule of law.” Moreover, the Court rejected additional post hoc rationalizations of DHS of a preference for legislative action on the issue and encouraging a “robust” enforcement message to other immigrants. 

Justice Roberts, writing for the majority, held that the conferral of benefits and forbearance of removal were coupled within the DACA program. Addressing these two separate interests and balancing policy initiatives was a determination within the realm of DHS and one that it could have made with reasoned policy.  However, he wrote, “Making that difficult decision was the agency’s job, but the agency failed to do it.” 

As such, the Supreme Court found the process for recission of the program illegal and the ruling today allows DACA to remain as law. 

It remains unclear what effect this decision will have on those who have been unable to apply for DACA since the decision to rescind the program, or what the future of the program will be. Although the issue will likely be at the center of upcoming presidential debates, it is expected that the future of the program will be closely tied to the results of the election.

If you have any questions regarding this decision and if or how it would affect your case, please contact Green & Spiegel at (215) 395-8959 or info@gands-us.com.

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