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?

We do know, however, that ending DACA would limit Dreamers' prospects for the future. 89 percent of DACA recipients have jobs, most of which come with benefits, lead to higher-paying jobs, and foster greater independence. Taking away DACA status will interfere with Dreamers' professional goals, cut off their livelihoods, and put their futures on hold.

Deporting Dreamers would force them to live in countries where they spent a small part of their lives and do not have a strong connection with.

Ending DACA would severely impact the rest of American society as well. By allowing its recipients to be part of the workforce, some of whom even running their own businesses, DACA contributes a significant portion of the American economy.

Most Americans, even members of Congress, recognize how vital DACA and its recipients are. Over ¾ of all Americans support a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers. In June, the House passed the historic American Dream and Promise Act, which would provide a three-step path to citizenship for Dreamers.

Trump has expressed support for a policy that protects Dreamers, but it’s uncertain what he expects in return. The best hope for Dreamers is that they are granted permanent protections to work, attend school, and live their best life in the U.S. safely and legally.

What are CIANA and Other Groups Doing to Protect DACA?

CIANA’s Legal Services Department offers assistance with DACA renewals to those who qualify. We’re proud that many of our DACA renewal clients have been coming to CIANA regularly every two years to receive our assistance.

On October 26, a number of immigrant advocacy groups, such as Make the Road and the New York Immigration Coalition, began a march to Washington D.C. that will culminate on November 12, the day the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear DHS v. Regents. The aim of the march is to let the Court, as well as Congress, know that for Dreamers, their home has always been the U.S., and they deserve to stay and build their lives here.

Even organizations whose focus is not specifically directed at immigrants are helping DACA recipients through this transitional period in their young adulthood. The Simple Dollar, an online financial resource website, has made a guide for Dreamers to navigate the financial obstacles they may face ad continue to face due to lack of legal protections.

DACA is vital for preparing young adults for their education, careers, and social mobility in the U.S. We have to fight to ensure that DACA is protected so that the hundreds of thousands of people who benefit from it continue to have a bright future in the United States.

Feb. 18 2020 - This post has been updated to include a guide to financial resources for DREAMers courtesy of The Simple Dollar.

Nov. 14, 2019 - This post has been updated to reflect the time frame by which the Court is expected to reach a decision in McAleenan v. Vidal.

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