Nov 12, 2019 - Politics & Policy

Supreme Court weighs judicial role, human impact of ending DACA

DACA protestors outside the Supreme Court

Hundreds of people gather outside the U.S. Supreme Court to rally in support of the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Supreme Court justices appeared divided on Tuesday over whether the Trump administration properly rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, an Obama-era policy that allows unauthorized immigrants brought to the U.S. as children to remain and work in the country.

The big picture: Liberal justices questioned whether the administration clearly explained why it ended DACA — beyond claiming it to be illegal — and the impact of ending it. Conservative justices seemed skeptical about whether the courts have the authority to review the decision at all.

Why it matters: This is just the beginning. A decision is expected by the end of June, and it will affect hundreds of thousands of lives, American businesses and communities.

  • Meanwhile outside the courtroom, hundreds of protestors marched and chanted, "Home is here," holding signs that called for the protection of "Dreamers."

Inside, conservative justices questioned the challengers on why the Trump administration's decision to end DACA fell under judicial review.

  • Even if the court were to decide that the Trump administration ended DACA by wrongfully citing its illegality and by failing to adequately consider the broad consequences, Chief Justice John Roberts asked the challengers how much more reasoning and analysis the government would need to add.
  • And what would be the point in delaying the end of the program, justices asked, if the Trump administration can simply reword its rescission of DACA and go through with it anyway.

Liberal judges stressed the significant impact that ending DACA would have on individuals, businesses and communities. They questioned whether the government adequately accounted for the factors in its decision, as required, and took clear responsibility for the potential impacts.

And where is the political decision made clearly? That this is not about the law; this is about our choice to destroy lives.
— Justice Sonia Sotomayor to Solicitor General Noel Francisco
  • Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg was the first to question U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco, asking how the administration can say it is within agencies' discretion to end DACA — and that the courts cannot interfere — while also claiming the program was ended because it was found to be illegal.

What to watch: The Justice Department made clear they don't want the Supreme Court to rule on the legality of the DACA program, but instead on whether the administration followed the legally required steps and whether courts have the authority to intervene at all.

Between the lines: Supreme Court beat reporters from the New York Times and NBC News assess that based on their questions, the five conservative justices seem inclined to rule in favor of the Trump administration.

Go deeper: What's at stake as DACA reaches the Supreme Court

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