Updated Jun 18, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Supreme Court rules Trump administration illegally ended DACA

Protestors in front of the Supreme Court. One protestor in the center holds up a sign that says "home is here."

Photo: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images

In a Thursday decision, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the Trump administration violated federal law when it ended the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) —  upholding protections from deportation for roughly 649,000 unauthorized immigrants in the U.S.

Why it matters: It's an unexpected victory for immigration activists. In the opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts, who sided with the liberal justices, wrote that the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) decision to rescind DACA in the fall of 2017 was "arbitrary and capricious."

Between the lines: The Trump administration has legal authority to end DACA, but the court found that the way it rescinded the program in 2017 violated federal law.

  • "The dispute before the Court is not whether DHS may rescind DACA. All parties agree that it may. The dispute is instead primarily about the procedure the agency followed in doing so," Justice Roberts wrote in the opinion.
  • Justice Roberts also wrote that DHS did not properly consider "what if anything to do about the hardship to DACA recipients" if the program were to be terminated.

By the numbers: DACA recipients were brought to the U.S. illegally as children — under 16 years of age — and many have grown up in the country.

  • Most are in their 20s and early 30s. Nearly half of DACA recipients are 26 years or older, according to data by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
  • 45% of active DACA recipients were living in California and Texas as of the end of 2019.
  • Top industries for immigrants who are eligible for the DACA program (but not necessarily actively enrolled) include food services, grocery stores and hospitals, according to analysis by New American Economy. These industries have become crucial during the coronavirus pandemic.

How we got here: Then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded DACA in the fall of 2017, which kicked off a long process of lawsuits and federal court decisions leading to the Supreme Court taking up the case in November of 2019.

What they're saying: Trump tweeted on Thursday, "These horrible & politically charged decisions coming out of the Supreme Court are shotgun blasts into the face of people that are proud to call themselves Republicans or Conservatives. We need more Justices or we will lose our 2nd. Amendment & everything else. Vote Trump 2020!"

President Obama tweeted:

Eight years ago this week, we protected young people who were raised as part of our American family from deportation. Today, I'm happy for them, their families, and all of us. We may look different and come from everywhere, but what makes us American are our shared ideals. And now to stand up for those ideals, we have to move forward and elect Joe Biden and a Democratic Congress that does its job, protects DREAMers, and finally creates a system that’s truly worthy of this nation of immigrants once and for all.

Read the opinion.

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