The Supreme Court Monday declined to review a federal judge's order continuing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program — a move that stymies the Trump administration's efforts to quickly end the program.
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At the White House, while meeting with the nation's governors, President Donald Trump reacted, saying: "We tried to get it moved quickly because we'd like to help DACA. I think everybody in this room wants to help with DACA, but the Supreme Court just ruled it has to go through the normal channels. So it's going back in. There won't be any surprise."
Since its inception, under the Obama-era program, thousands of young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children have been granted protection from deportation. The program has also become a key flash point amid heated debate over immigration reform.
In its previous petition to the high court, the Department of Justice had said "immediate review is warranted" adding "The district court has entered a nationwide injunction that requires DHS to keep in place a policy of non-enforcement that no one contends is required by federal law and that DHS has determined is, in fact, unlawful and should be discontinued."
Legal experts and the Department of Justice said the Supreme Court's actions were expected as the appeals courts had not yet weighed in on the matter. Hearing the case would have meant bypassing the appellate court, something the Supreme Court very rarely does, said Kate Shaw, an ABC News contributor who also teaches at Cardozo Law School.
In denying the petition, the court wrote: "It is assumed that the Court of Appeals will proceed expeditiously to decide this case."
"After that happens, the court can consider the case in the ordinary course. I think there's still a very good chance that the court will take the case after the Ninth Circuit has acted (if there's been no movement on DACA in the political branches by then," Shaw said.
The Department of Justice said it is watching closely.
“While we were hopeful for a different outcome, the Supreme Court very rarely grants certiorari before judgment, though in our view it was warranted for the extraordinary injunction requiring the Department of Homeland Security to maintain DACA," said Department of Justice spokesman Devin O’Malley. "We will continue to defend DHS’ lawful authority to wind down DACA in an orderly manner.”
In the meantime, injunctions allowing portions of the program — including applications for protected status renewals — to remain in place as the case wends through the courts.
Though so-called "Dreamers" whose status was valid through March 5 are allowed to re-apply for extensions, some have lost their status.
The administration has said the onus is on Congress to create a more permanent solution for DACA.
In a statement, White House principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah said: “The DACA program – which provides work permits and myriad government benefits to illegal immigrants en masse – is clearly unlawful. The district judge’s decision to unilaterally re-impose a program that Congress had explicitly and repeatedly rejected is a usurpation of legislative authority."
"We look forward to having this case expeditiously heard by the appeals court and, if necessary, the Supreme Court, where we fully expect to prevail,” Shah said.