The Supreme Court’s conservative justices on Tuesday seemed ready to uphold the Trump administration’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
DACA was implemented through executive action in 2012, and allows illegal immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children to apply for a two-year deportation deferral. The deferral, which comes with work eligibility, may be renewed, but does not provide a path to citizenship.
The challenge to the Trump administration’s decision to end DACA did not dispute that Trump has the legal authority to terminate the program. Rather, it asked justices to consider whether the administration’s justifications for ending DACA were “arbitrary and capricious,” which would render the order unlawful under the Administrative Procedures Act.
“I hear a lot of facts, sympathetic facts, that you’ve put out there, and they speak to all of us,” said Justice Neil Gorsuch referring to the situation of DACA recipients, also known as Dreamers after a separate piece of legislation. However, Gorsuch questioned whether it was the Supreme Court’s place to interfere with the Trump administration’s decision to end the program.
Chief Justice John Roberts pointed out that the court had affirmed a 2016 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that ended a different Obama-era amnesty initiative known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA). Roberts suggested that decision could provide precedent for the Supreme Court’s coming decision regarding DACA.
President Trump ordered an end to DACA in 2017 after initially showing support for the program.
“Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military?” Trump wrote at the time on Twitter. However, nine conservative state attorneys-general then threatened to sue the administration to terminate DACA, arguing that the program constituted an overreach of federal executive power.
No new Dreamers have been accepted to DACA since 2017, although the program has been kept alive through various legal challenges, allowing Dreamers to continue to renew their protected statuses.
Trump tweeted during the Supreme Court hearing on Tuesday that “Many of the people in DACA, no longer very young, are far from ‘angels.’ Some are very tough, hardened criminals.” However, Trump did promise a “deal” for Dreamers regarding their immigration status after the Supreme Court rules on the program.
It was not immediately clear when the court will announce its ruling.