The Supreme Court rejected President Donald Trump’s effort to end legal protections for 650,000 young immigrants on Thursday. The decision is a big legal defeat for President Donald Trump on the issue of immigration, which has been a major focus of his domestic agenda.
The ruling said the government failed to give an adequate justification for ending the federal program. The administration could try again to shut it down by offering a more detailed explanation for its action, but the White House might not want to end such a popular program in the heat of a presidential campaign.
The outcome seems certain to elevate the issue in Trump’s campaign, given the anti-immigrant rhetoric of his first presidential run in 2016 and immigration restrictions his administration has imposed since then.
The justices rejected administration arguments that the 8-year-old Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program is illegal and that courts have no role to play in reviewing the decision to end DACA.
Immigration lawyers told the Supreme Court after the case was argued last fall that frontline health care workers involved in responding to the coronavirus epidemic rely on about 27,000 DACA recipients, “including dentists, pharmacists, physician assistants, home health aides, technicians” and nearly 200 medical students.
“Termination of DACA during this national health emergency would be catastrophic,” they said in an April 2 court filing. The Association of American Medical Colleges told the court last fall — well before the pandemic crisis — that the U.S. is unprepared “to fill the loss that would result if DACA recipients were excluded from the health care workforce.”
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court that the administration did not pursue the end of the program properly.
“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.”
In response to legal challenges, lower court rulings allowed DACA to keep going, letting young people in the program to reapply every two years and remain under its protection. Children of illegal immigrants were allowed to remain here if they were under 16 when their parents brought them to the U.S. and if they arrived by 2007.
DACA’s defenders had argued that federal law required the Trump administration to give a detailed explanation before trying to shut the program down — an action that would affect hundreds of thousands of people and the businesses that employ them. Instead, they said, the government simply declared the program illegal. More than 100 business groups, including Apple and Microsoft, sought to preserve DACA, arguing many of their employees are part of the program.
Figures show that over 90 percent of DACA participants have a job, nearly half are in school, and many don’t speak the language or know the culture of their home countries.
Mayor Kenny has also issued a statement regarding Philadelphia’s stance on the matter of the Supreme Court’s ruling.
“Philadelphia stands with DACA recipients across the country. Over 825,000 young people who have benefitted from the program came here with their parents searching for a better life and more opportunities. DACA recipients came out of the shadows, and many of them are thriving as students and young professionals, contributing to the progress of our cities. They are a vital part of our communities. Today’s Supreme Court ruling is a huge victory for Dreamers across the country.”
Mark Sherman of the Associated Press contributed to this report.