The Supreme Court ruled today in Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California, that the Trump Administration’s elimination of the DACA program violated federal law.
DACA, or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, was created by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2012. DACA allows qualifying individuals, who came to this country as undocumented children, to register and receive removal forbearance, work authorizations, and access to federal benefits. Some 700,000 people, known as Dreamers, signed up for DACA.
In 2017, DHS rescinded the program at the instruction of the Attorney General. This resulted in a wave of lawsuits, alleging DHS violated the Administrative Procedure Act by eliminating DACA, a law which governs the rulemaking procedures of federal agencies like DHS. Today, in a 5-4 decision authored by Chief Justice Roberts, the high court agreed with the challengers.
The issue in this case was not whether DHS had the authority to eliminate the program—everyone agrees that it does. Rather, the issue was whether the way in which DHS went about it was “arbitrary and capricious.” To determine whether DHS acted in an “arbitrary and capricious” manner, the Court examined the circumstances surrounding the elimination of the program. It turns out, the Attorney General only instructed DHS to rescind Dreamers’ eligibility for benefits, not the entire program. DHS, however, eliminated DACA all together including the forbearance policy, which the Court considered to be at the heart of the program. The Court held that DHS overreached and therefore acted in a manner that was arbitrary and capricious in violation of the Act.
This ruling provides a big sigh of relief for Dreamers, but the fight is not over. The Trump administration may try yet again to eliminate the program, this time being careful not to run afoul of the Administrative Procedures Act. The program, however, is incredibly popular. A 2020 CBS poll reveals that 85% of Americans, including 73% of Republicans, want Dreamers to remain in the U.S. if they continue to meet DACA’s requirements. On June 4, 2019, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would make DACA permanent. The Senate has yet to take the bill up for consideration.
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