How the Supreme Court’s Ruling on DACA Could Upend The Lives Of Nearly 700,000 Young Immigrants

The Supreme Court will hear arguments on November 12 on a set of three cases involving the Trump administration’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The Obama-era policy grants deportation protection and work permits to young undocumented immigrants who were brought into the U.S. as children.

The root of the three cases — Trump v. NAACP, McAleenan v. Vidal and Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California — is the question of how the Trump administration decided to wind down DACA. There is no dispute that the administration can end the DACA program, but lower courts ruled that it acted improperly when it failed to explain why it opted to shut down a program affecting nearly 700,000 undocumented immigrants.

According to Vox, the lower courts noted that the Trump administration failed to explain why it believes DACA is a bad policy. Under the Administrative Procedures Act, the federal government must provide transparent and substantial reasons when developing and enacting public policies. DACA recipients, immigration advocates, universities and several states argue that the Trump administration violated that act.

However, the administration does not need to take the case to the Supreme Court to bring DACA to an end. In fact, the administration could announce a new policy memo that would end DACA with the stroke of a pen. By taking the case to the Supreme Court, the administration could have the program declared illegal thus prohibiting any future president from enacting a similar program.

DACA was far from the first time a president sought to extend deportation protection to certain groups of undocumented immigrants. Every administration since Eisenhower has extended these deportation protections and, since 1981, federal regulations have granted work permits to affected immigrants, The New Yorker reported.

Why It Matters

DACA recipients have been in limbo since President Trump put an end to the program in 2017. Nearly 670,000 immigrants are protected by DACA, and an unfavorable ruling by SCOTUS could leave them vulnerable to deportation to countries they barely know. The outcome of the hearings will affect DACA recipients’ education, jobs and, most importantly, families.

“As a lawyer, I’m very stoked about it,” attorney Luis Cortes, who is defending DACA at the Supreme Court and is a recipient himself, told The New Yorker. “I didn’t think I would have a Supreme Court case this early on in my career. But it’s also daunting. I’m going to be looking at the people who get to decide whether my clients are going to get deported, and me along with them.”

Denis McDonough, former deputy national security advisor and White House chief of staff in the Obama administration, said that the end of DACA could also spell disaster for U.S. national security. In a piece for Axios, McDonough argued that the cost of DACA deportations could reach as high as $7.5 billion, which would require funding and resources to be moved away from counterterrorism, cross-border crime and emergent threats.

The Trump administration has already proven that it is willing to move funding to immigration enforcement. This year, the administration announced that it will shift $155 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) disaster relief fund to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). An additional $116 million will be moved from other agencies to ICE to fund detention beds, transportation and deportation.

What SCOTUS Could Decide

The Supreme Court can rule in three ways, each progressively worse for DACA recipients.

  1. Narrow victory in favor of DACA: The Supreme Court could agree with lower courts, which ruled that the Trump administration provided legal reasons to end the program instead of providing a policy justification. Allison Davenport, supervising attorney for the Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC), told The North Star that this could mean that the program is reinstated in its totality or it continues to function as it has since 2017. According to Vox, it is unlikely the Supreme Court will rule this way. If it does, the Trump administration can still announce a new policy memo ending DACA, but it would not be able to prevent future presidents from reestablishing the program.

  2. Narrow victory in favor of Trump administration: Alternatively, the Supreme Court could rule that that the Trump administration did provide a policy justification for ending DACA and that the lower courts had no business ruling on the policy change. While this would allow the Trump administration to end DACA, it also would not stop a future president from bringing DACA back.

  3. Complete loss for DACA: This would be the worst case scenario for Dreamers (recipients of DACA). If the Supreme Court rules that DACA is in fact an illegal policy, it would end the program and prevent future presidents from reestablishing DACA or a similar program.

What An End to DACA Could Mean

Davenport told The North Star it’s unclear what the end of DACA could look like for recipients. When the Trump administration announced the end of the program in 2017, it stopped accepting new applications and said it would simply allow protections to expire. Davenport noted, however, that the administration could opt to revoke all protections in a potential DACA wind down. The ILRC attorney said that an end to DACA does not necessarily mean recipients would be referred to immigration court proceedings. The cases would likely be in legal limbo, Davenport told The North Star.

That is why Davenport encouraged DACA recipients to renew their applications now, noting that the Supreme Court will likely deliver its decision sometime in the spring, as late as June.

“We think if you get your application in now, you’re likely to get it approved and renewed before the decision takes place,” Davenport said. That would give DACA recipients two years of protection, even if the program is eliminated. She also encouraged Dreamers to get legal help to see if they have other options to stay in the country legally.

Davenport urged DACA recipients to visit Immigration Advocates Network to find legal consultations for their cases. A national directory is availablehere. Related Stories


About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia, Australia and the Americas.