June 18, 2020

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday blocked the Trump administration from terminating the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, preserving protections for hundreds of thousands of young unauthorized immigrants.

In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court found that the Trump administration's decision to terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was arbitrary and capricious.

In a fractured ruling, the justices held that the high court can review the DACA program, which offers deportation relief and work permits to young immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. They also found that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's decision to terminate the program was arbitrary and capricious.

"Making that difficult decision was the agency's job, but the agency failed to do it," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion.

The majority explained that former acting DHS Secretary Elaine Duke, who has penned a memo justifying the rescission of the Obama-era program, had not sufficiently explained the department's reasoning in violation of administrative law. Notably, she had failed to consider the reliance interests of the young people who depend on the program to stay in the only country they know as home, the court said.

"DHS has considerable flexibility in carrying out its responsibility," Chief Justice Roberts wrote. "[Duke] should have considered whether she had similar flexibility in addressing any reliance interests of DACA recipients."

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The Trump administration had announced plans in 2017 to roll back DACA. The program had been implemented in 2012.

The move was met with an onslaught of litigation brought by states and local governments, DACA recipients, labor unions, universities and nonprofits who said the administration's decision to end the program was arbitrary and unconstitutional.

The administration, however, has maintained that DHS has "absolute discretion" to rescind the policy and that courts should not be permitted to review those types of decisions.

Federal judges in Washington, D.C., New York and California blocked the planned termination while the lawsuits marched on and kept DACA partially alive, allowing current "Dreamers" to continue renewing their work permits. DHS stopped accepting new applications, however.

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The challengers in the combined cases are represented by attorneys with the New York Attorney General's Office, California Attorney General's Office, Jenner & Block LLP, Covington & Burling LLP, Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC and Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP.

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