On June 18, the Supreme Court decided 5-4 to strike down the Trump administration’s 2017 executive order to terminate Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). This decision delivered a major victory to DACA recipients and immigration advocacy organizations.
In June 2017, President Trump announced his plan to phase out DACA. Later that year in September, Trump issued an executive order to officially enact the plan.
Created under President Obama in 2012, DACA allows adolescents and young adults who came to the United States without authorization to remain in the U.S. and obtain a work permit. Under Trump's order, new DACA applications could not be submitted, but existing ones could be renewed.
Nearly 800,000 DACA recipients, also known as Dreamers, have benefited from the program since its inception, and are now a vital part of the American workforce in all 50 states. Many are essential workers, including over 20,000 medical professionals, working on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A number of lawsuits were filed against Trump’s plan shortly after it was issued, and made its way to the Supreme Court in November 2019. Due to the conservative majority on the Supreme Court, many immigration activists were pessimistic about the Court ruling in favor of DACA.
However, Republican Chief Justice John Roberts, lately a swing justice in key court cases, sided with DACA. In the majority opinion of the Court, Roberts wrote that the Department of Homeland Security, the government agency responsible for phasing out DACA and the plaintiffs in the court case, "failed to consider…what if anything to do about the hardship to DACA recipients."
Had the Court sided with Trump, the hardships faced by DACA recipients would be immense and numerous. DACA would be formally abolished, Dreamers would no longer be able to renew their status, and hundreds of thousands of workers would likely have been deported to their countries of origin, which they have little connection with save for having been born there.
All Dreamers would have found their futures on hold, and the broader American society would have suffered as a result- as we wrote about at the time.
DACA’s victory, although surprising to many, was welcomed and celebrated by immigrant advocacy groups and community-based organizations, such as CIANA.
CIANA has been providing DACA renewal services for a number of years, in partnership with the CUNY Legal Resource Network (CLRN). Our current legal program includes DACA renewal and work permit application assistance. We, along with many other organizations, have been urging clients to renew their DACA status in anticipation of the Supreme Court’s decision.
While the long-term impact of the Court’s decision is still unclear, we are relieved that Dreamers will continue to be able to renew their status, and keep living their lives as usual. Dreamers are scholars, essential workers, business owners, entrepreneurs, and so much more, and they deserve to develop their skills here in the U.S., where they have spent a majority of their lives.
However, the Court's decision isn't the final word on DACA. Chief Justice Roberts wrote that they weren't deciding whether DACA itself was or wasn't constitutional, but whether the way Trump terminated DACA was. Trump is already exploring other methods of ending DACA that fit into the Supreme Court's framework.
The fight to protect DACA isn't over until the Supreme Court issues a more permanent ruling, and/or until Congress passes meaningful legislation that defends DACA, and affirms that for Dreamers, their home is here in the United States.