On Thursday, the Supreme Court blocked the Trump administration’s attempt to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. According to the ruling, the Trump administration violated federal law when it rescinded DACA. The DACA program is an initiative passed by the Obama administration that President Trump’s administration has spent years trying to destroy as part of its anti-immigration agenda. While the decision is a major victory for immigrants rights and should be celebrated, the court also noted that it’s possible for the program to be ended via another avenue — a point which has mostly escaped media attention.
Justice John Roberts wrote the decision, and was joined in the majority by the liberal Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer, and Elena Kagan. They determined that the acting director of the Department of Homeland Security, Elaine C. Duke, violated the Administrative Procedure Act (a law that regulates federal agencies’ powers) when she rescinded the program in 2017 at the behest of then-attorney general Jeff Sessions. Therefore, Roberts wrote, the decision to rescind DACA "must be vacated.” In his decision, Roberts called the Trump administration's "total rescission" of DACA "arbitrary and capricious."
But one major point in the decision states that the Trump administration can still try again to end DACA. The majority opinion sends the issue back to DHS "so that it may consider the problem anew." What this means is that it’s possible for the administration to end DACA if they go about it a different way. “The dispute before the Court is not whether DHS may rescind DACA. All parties agree that it may,” Roberts wrote. “The dispute is instead primarily about the procedure the agency followed in doing so.”
Shortly after the decision, Senator Dick Durban (D-IL) spoke on the Senate floor about the ruling. Durbin said that today’s ruling brought “a smile and a sense of relief” for the young people impacted by the decision. He also said it would be “a terrible tragedy" if the Trump administration tries to end the program the "right way" this time."I'm calling on the president and those around [him] — I beg them — let's give these DACA protectees till the end of this year, till after the election," Durbin said, because that would give Congress time "to do our part” in putting pathways to citizenship in place.
For the moment, the SCOTUS decision is a huge win, one that was fought for by the countless undocumented people who risked everything to be granted their rights and protection. “DACA is far from perfect but it was hard fought,” tweeted Aura Bogado, an immigration reporter at Reveal. “That fight was led in 2012 by a small group of undocumented young people [called the NIYA] who were deeply opposed by most Democrats, liberal DC pro-immigrant groups, and fellow young undocumented people who thought the NIYA was too radical.”