Supreme Court to take up DACA as immigration issue heats up during presidential campaign

The decision comes after months of secret deliberation by the justices.

June 28, 2019, 11:34 AM

The Supreme Court announced on Friday that in its next term the justices plan to examine the legality of DACA and President Donald Trump’s decision to terminate the program, which imperiled the legal status of 700,000 young immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children.

The decision by the court comes after months of secret deliberations by the justices. Acceptance of the cases was given without explanation. Oral arguments will be held in the fall, with a decision expected in early 2020 just as the presidential campaign is kicking into high gear.

People participate in a protest in defense of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program or DACA in New York, Sept. 9, 2017.
Stephanie Keith/Reuters, FILE

Trump moved to end the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals initiative in 2017, blasting his predecessor for abuse of executive power to shield undocumented immigrants when Congress would not.

After several legal challenges were brought, federal courts put phase-out of the program on hold, pending appeals. No new applications are being accepted, but the Department of Homeland Security is processing renewals for immigrants already in the program.

The Trump Administration has approved more than 373,000 renewal requests since 2017.

Supporters of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals hold signs during the Women's March rally in Las Vegas, Jan. 21, 2018.
Steve Marcus/Reuters, FILE

DACA allows qualified immigrants without a criminal record and who are attending school to pay a fee, register with the government and receive a temporary waiver from deportation and ability to work.

Roughly 700,000 immigrants, known as Dreamers, have received temporary protection from deportation and work permits under the policy.

"DACA covers a class of immigrants whose presence, seemingly all agree, pose the least, if any, threat and allows them to sign up for honest labor on the condition of continued good behavior," federal District Court Judge William Alsup wrote in his opinion last year blocking the administration’s move.

Several federal courts have ruled against Trump, calling his decision "arbitrary and capricious" in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act. In one case challenging DACA, however, a federal judge has said the same of President Obama’s decision creating the program.

The Supreme Court's decision to hear DACA means, in effect, that the program will remain in place through at least October.

"DACA reflects our nation’s commitment to helping hardworking people and creates hope and opportunity for a new generation – many of whom were brought to our country as toddlers. 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," said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who brought one of the legal challenges, joined by three other states. "We look forward to making our case before the Supreme Court."

President Trump has called the DACA recipients, also known as dreamers, "absolutely incredible kids" and promised that "we’ll take care of everybody," but the administration has not proposed a solution.

Earlier this month, the Democrat-controlled U.S. House of Representatives passed a measure that would establish a pathway to citizenship for 2.5 million dreamers, including those affected by Trump’s cancellation of the DACA program. The White House said Trump would veto it.