The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected the Trump administration's attempt to dismantle the program protecting undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children, a reprieve for nearly 650,000 recipients known as “dreamers.”
The 5 to 4 decision was written by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and joined by the court’s four liberals. It was the second, stunning defeat this week for the Trump administration, as the Supreme Court begins to unveil its decisions in marquee cases.
It will likely elevate the issue of immigration in the presidential campaign, although public opinion polls have shown sympathy for those who were brought here as children and have lived their lives in this country. Congress repeatedly has failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
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The administration has tried for more than two years to “wind down” the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, announced by President Barack Obama in 2012 to protect from deportation qualified young immigrants. Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions advised the new Trump administration to end it, saying it was illegal.
But, as lower courts had found, Roberts said the administration did not follow procedures required by law, and did not properly weigh how ending the program would affect those who had come to rely on its protections against deportation, and the ability to work legally.
“We do not decide whether DACA or its rescission are sound policies,” Roberts wrote.
He added: “We address only whether the [Department of Homeland Security] 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. That dual failure raises doubts about whether the agency appreciated the scope of its discretion or exercised that discretion in a reasonable manner.”
He was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan in the most important parts of the opinion.
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Nearly 800,000 people over the years have participated in the program, which provides a chance for enrollees to work legally in the United States as long as they follow the rules and have a clean record.
More than 90 percent of DACA recipients are employed and 45 percent are in school, according to one government study. Advocates recently told the Supreme Court that nearly 30,000 work in the health-care industry, and their work was necessary to fighting the coronavirus pandemic.
While the program does not provide a direct path to citizenship, it provides a temporary status that shields them from deportation and allows them to work. The status lasts for two years and can be renewed.
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Cohen Milstein represented the NAACP, the United Food & Commercial Workers and the American Federation of Teachers in National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, et al. v. Donald J. Trump, in his official capacity as President of the United States, et al.