Trump Cannot Arbitrarily End DACA Program, Supreme Court Rules

DACA program will continue, Supreme Court rules.


Ending months of doubt and uncertainty, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the Trump administration cannot go forward with its planned termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

This program was instituted by President Obama via executive order, to protect the hundreds of thousands of undocumented young people who were brought to the U.S. with their parents and then attended school and became law-abiding members of society. DACA allowed these so-called "DREAMers" (named after proposed Congressional action to help them) to avoid deportation and remain in the United States with permission to work. DACA status must be regularly renewed, every two years.

Early in Trump's term, in September 2017, he announced that his administration would rescind DACA after a wind-down period. Multiple lawsuits followed, and courts in various jurisdictions ordered the government to keep DACA in place. The Trump administration fought back with appeals.

In the midst of all this, DACA holders were allowed to maintain their existing quasi-lawful status and go forward with renewals, but the U.S. government accepted no new DACA applications.

Three cases ended up being consolidated into the one that went to the Supreme Court, under the name Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of Univ. of California. Those challenging the termination argued that Trump's DACA termination violated the federal Administrative Procedure Act (APA), which governs how administrative agencies behave; and violated the rights of DACA holders themselves.

The Supreme Court agreed, in a 5-4 ruling authored by Chief Justice Roberts.

What this will literally mean for DACA recipients going forward has yet to be worked out. It appears, however, that USCIS will need to create a mechanism to accept DACA renewals as well as initial DACA applications; and will need to resume processing advance parole travel applications based on DACA (which it had ceased to do).

At the same time, the Trump administration can start up new efforts to cancel DACA through legal means. Until Congress acts, which was the very thing President Obama created this stopgap measure in expectation of, the status of the DREAMers will remain uncertain.

Effective Date: June 18, 2020