WASHINGTON — The US Supreme Court announced Friday that it will consider the lawfulness of the Trump administration’s plan to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protects those brought to the US illegally as children from deportation.
In taking up the DACA cases, the justices are once again wading into the fray on not only the Trump administration’s hardline immigration policies, but also President Donald Trump’s efforts to roll back many of the signature efforts of the Obama administration.
The Trump administration announced in September 2017 that it was winding down DACA, an Obama-era program that provided temporary protection against deportation and work authorization for more than 700,000 young, undocumented immigrants. Multiple lower court judges, both at the district court and appeals court levels, ordered the administration to reinstate the program, finding officials had failed to clearly explain the reason for ending the program.
In January 2018, a federal judge in California issued the first nationwide injunction, requiring the Trump administration to partially revive the DACA program and continue accepting renewal applications from young immigrants whose DACA status was set to expire. Since that ruling, more than 373,000 DACA recipients have had their status renewed, according to federal data.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who, along with attorneys general in Maine, Maryland, and Minnesota, brought one of the cases the Supreme Court will review, said in a statement Friday that he looks forward “to making our case before the Supreme Court.”
“So far, both lower courts in our legal fight to protect DACA have agreed with us that the Trump Administration’s attempt to end it was unlawful,” Becerra said. “In California and across our nation, [DREAMers] enrich our communities as scholars, entrepreneurs, first responders, and much more.”
The Justice Department repeatedly pushed to speed up getting the issue before the Supreme Court. Last year, before any appeals court had even ruled, officials asked the justices to step in and take up the cases, with no success. The department praised the court’s decision to take up the cases Friday. “We are pleased the Supreme Court agreed that this issue needs resolution. We look forward to presenting our case before the Court,” Justice Department spokesperson Alexei Woltornist said in a statement.
Petitions challenging rulings out of Washington, DC, California, and New York have been pending before the high court for months.
In the meantime, the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit issued an opinion in November siding with the challengers in California. The 2nd Circuit heard arguments in the New York case in January and has yet to rule; the DC Circuit heard arguments in February and also has yet to release its decision.
In May, the administration tried again, asking the court to agree to expedite briefing on whether it should hear another DACA case out of Maryland, where the 4th Circuit had ruled in favor of upholding an injunction reinstating the program. Earlier this month, the justices declined to grant the Justice Department’s request to set a faster-than-usual schedule.
Judges who did enter injunctions in large part found that the Trump administration had failed to adequately explain its reason for rescinding the program and provide a detailed explanation for their contention that DACA was unlawful.
US District Judge John Bates in Washington, DC, who ordered a full reinstatement of the program, wrote in an August 2018 opinion that he wasn’t ruling out the possibility that the Department of Homeland Security had the authority to end DACA, but if it wanted to do so, it had to give a “rational explanation.”
Bates’s decision would force the government to accept new applications for the DACA program as well as renewal applications for young people who were already enrolled when the administration announced plans to end it. Other courts had only required the administration to resume processing renewal applications for current recipients, and Bates agreed to put his order on hold as it related to new applications while the government appealed.
The administration has continued to process renewal applications since 2017.
This story was updated with a statement from the Justice Department.