CIANA Explains: What Happens if the Supreme Court Ends DACA?


Demonstrators outside the White House protesting the repeal of DACA. Photo: AP.

On November 12, 2019, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments to determine whether or not the Trump administration’s 2017 decision to end DACA was legal. Ending DACA would take away immigration status from hundreds of thousands of individuals who have lived in the United States for most of their lives.

What is DACA and Why Is it Ending?

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was enacted in 2012 by President Obama to allow undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children to stay and work in the U.S. Since then, over 800,000 DACA recipients, also called “Dreamers,” have built lives for themselves in almost every state.

On September 5, 2017, The Trump administration issued an executive order to phase out DACA by no longer accepting new applications. Current recipients are eligible to renew their status and work permits, as is required every two years. An estimated 12,000 Dreamers have already lost their DACA because they did not renew on time.

Dreamers and immigrants’ rights groups have filed a number of lawsuits against the government challenging the termination of DACA. One such case, Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California, was filed just three days after the announcement to end DACA was made, and will be heard by the Supreme Court in November.

What’s the Supreme Court Case About?

The Court will hear arguments from the DHS, which argues that DACA was created illegally, and the University of California, which claims that Trump terminated DACA improperly. California has a high population of undocumented immigrants, including many Dreamers who attend the UC system, so the University is aiming to protect its students.

DHS v. Regents will be grouped with two other DACA-related cases, including McAleenan v. Vidal, a case filed by six DACA recipients and immigrant advocacy organization Make the Road New York, one of CIANA’s partners. The Court’s decision, which is expected between January and June of 2020, will apply not only to Regents, but to McAleenan and other DACA-related cases.

What Will Happen if DACA is Struck Down?

It’s unclear what will happen if the Supreme Court’s conservative majority decides that Trump terminated DACA lawfully. Will all Dreamers be deported? Will there be another lawsuit? Will DACA be gradually erased, or will it end abruptly?