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Supreme Court Rejects Efforts to Discontinue DACA Program

The issue of undocumented immigrants brought into this country as children has long been a controversial one.  Although technically unauthorized, President Obama during his term implemented the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA), which in essence indicated that the government would not enforce laws against persons brought into this country illegally as children.  The Trump Administration rescinded the non-enforcement policy of the Obama Administration, and the subsequent litigation went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.  Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California, 18-587. 

In a June opinion in which Chief Justice John Roberts joined the Court's liberal justices in a 5-4 majority, the high court ruled that the Department of Homeland Security failed to consider conspicuous issues, including the hardship on DACA recipients, and thus there were doubts about whether the agency appreciated the scope of its discretion or exercise that discretion in a reasonable manner.  The recession of DACA was found to be "arbitrary and capricious," violating the Administrative Procedure Act that governs administrative agencies. The issue of undocumented immigrants brought into this country as children has long been a controversial one.  Although technically unauthorized, President Obama during his term implemented the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA), which in essence indicated that the government would not enforce laws against persons brought into this country illegally as children.  The Trump Administration rescinded the non-enforcement policy of the Obama Administration, and the subsequent litigation went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.  Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California, 18-587.  In a June opinion in which Chief Justice John Roberts joined the Court's liberal justices in a 5-4 majority, the high court ruled that the Department of Homeland Security failed to consider conspicuous issues, including the hardship on DACA recipients, and thus there were doubts about whether the agency appreciated the scope of its discretion or exercise that discretion in a reasonable manner.  The recession of DACA was found to be "arbitrary and capricious," violating the Administrative Procedure Act that governs administrative agencies. 
Many found irony in the ruling that did not challenge the propriety of the change in policy, but only the procedure the agency followed in doing so.  The Court in essence found that correct reasoning had to be applied in beginning to enforce a law that was passed by Congress, but that a previous administration had decided not to enforce.  Dissenting Justice Samuel Alito wrote that the Constitutional system is not supposed to work this way, and in a dissenting opinion joined by Alito and Gorsuch, Justice Thomas called the DACA Program "substantively unlawful."  Justice Thomas raised another interesting point, that being that the ruling might create "perverse incentives" for outgoing administrations.  That is, an administration could rely on the DACA decision to "bind their successors by unlawfully adopting significant legal changes through Executive Branch Agency Memoranda."  
In any event, the ruling does not preclude the President from trying again to cancel the program with a better explanation, but it is unlikely that any changes will be made before the November election.  Meanwhile, the estimated 700,000 DACA children will be allowed to live and work in the U.S.  However, DACA is only available to immigrants who had been living in the U.S. since 2007, along with other requirements.  The so-called "Dreamers" thus may continue to stay in the U.S., although at least ten variations on the "Dream Act" have been proposed but failed in Congress.
Editor's Note:  The ability of states and/or interested groups to challenge administrative opinions seems to be at an all-time high.  Past administrations have won a majority of court cases challenging federal administrative rulings, but the current administration is losing a majority of such cases.  Courts are increasingly requiring detailed and complete records to justify administrative action.  Further, challengers to administrative actions are filing their cases in courts and before judges anticipated to be more favorable to their positions, and then seeking national injunctions against the new rules.


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