Supreme Court rejects Trump administration challenge to DACA

    The U.S. Supreme Court Thursday ruled Thursday the Trump administration can't carry out its plan to end the the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which has allowed 700,000 young people, including 21,000 Georgians, to remain in the U.S. Last fall a crowd protested as the court heard arguments over the Obama-era DACA program. Robin Bravender/Georgia Recorder

    WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday salvaged an Obama-era program that has allowed hundreds of thousands of young, unauthorized immigrants known as “Dreamers” to remain in the country without immediate fear of deportation.

    In a 5-4 decision, Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the court’s liberal wing in finding that the Trump administration broke the law in 2017 when it rescinded the program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.

    Roberts wrote the majority opinion and was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor.

    The court held that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s decision to end the program was “arbitrary and capricious” and therefore in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act.

    “We do not decide whether DACA or its rescission are sound policies,” Roberts wrote. “‘The wisdom’ of those decisions ‘is none of our concern.’

    But the department, he said, “failed to consider the conspicuous issues of whether to retain forbearance and what if anything to do about the hardship to DACA recipients. That dual failure raises doubts about whether the agency appreciated the scope of its discretion or exercised that discretion in a reasonable manner.”

    The ruling drew cheers from liberal lawmakers and advocates across the country.

    “By rejecting the Trump administration’s illegal attempt to end DACA, the Supreme Court provided a critical measure of relief to DACA recipients and their families at a time when they — like all Americans — are experiencing significant fear and uncertainty as a result of the coronavirus pandemic,” Neera Tanden, president and CEO of the Center for American Progress, said in a statement.

    Justice Clarence Thomas called the ruling “mystifying” in a dissenting opinion. “Today’s decision must be recognized for what it is: an effort to avoid a politically controversial but legally correct decision,” he wrote.

    Georgia is home to 21,000 so-called Dreamers, many of whom are educated in public schools only to face barriers to continuing their education at state universities. Some state universities won’t admit DACA recipients at all, while the other colleges in the University System of Georgia charge them expensive out-of-state tuition.

    Early this year Dalton Republican state Rep. Kasey Carpenter pushed  House Bill 997 to open up in-state tuition to DACA recipients, only to miss the crucial March Crossover Day deadline. House Higher Education Committee Chairman Chuck Martin declined to let his panel vote on Carpenter’s bill because of the uncertain outcome of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

    Now that the court ruled against the Trump administration, it is technically possible for Carpenter to revive his bill this year. But practically, it’s a tall order for it to gain traction as the 2020 legislative

    The ruling will likely inflame partisan tensions ahead of the 2020 presidential contest. It comes days after the court issued an unexpected ruling protecting LGBTQ workers from job discrimination.

    Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called the pair of rulings “a bright ray of sunshine” during difficult times. “This is a wonderful, wonderful day,” he said in a statement.

    The DACA program was created in 2012 to allow certain immigrants who arrived in the United States before age 16 to apply for temporary protection from deportation and work permits.

    About 700,000 people have participated in the program, according to the court. A 2017 survey of DACA recipients found that nearly all respondents were either employed or in school, according to the Center for American Progress.

    President Donald Trump vowed on the campaign trail to “end” the program. His administration made good on his promise in 2017, but lower courts blocked the decision from taking effect.

    The administration could try to end the program again, the court noted. If it does, it will have to do so in a way that complies with federal law governing such decisions.

    Last June, the U.S. House passed legislation that would safeguard the program and provide a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers. The bill has not been taken up in the U.S. Senate.