On Tuesday, the Supreme Court began to hear arguments about President Trump’s actions surrounding DACA in the Department of Homeland Security. v. Regents of the University of California case. President Trump campaigned on promises to end illegal immigration, but in office his actions have often manifested in limiting pathways to legal immigration, and his proposal to end DACA is a prime example.
So What is DACA?
DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, is an executive order set in place under President Obama in 2012. DACA allows people who were brought into the US illegally as children to remain in the US for a renewable two-year period. Despite President Trump’s fear mongering to the contrary, immigrants do not qualify for DACA if they have a criminal background. Under DACA, previously undocumented immigrants can obtian work permits, get health insurance through their employers, and even access forms of financial aid for higher education in some states. In fact, over 90 percent of DACA recipients are employed, and close to half are university students.
DACA was never intended to provide a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers. The DREAM act, first introduced in 2001 but never passed into law, would have provided this pathway to legal citizenship for undocumented immigrants via college education, work, or military service. Compared to the DREAM act, DACA’s goals are modest. In fact, even supporters and recipients of DACA do not see it as sufficient to protect undocumented immigrants because it effectively keeps people in limbo and forces them to re-apply every two years to remain in the country. Although DACA is an imperfect piece of legislation, ending the program without a comprehensive replacement would have disastrous effects for the nearly 800,000 young Americans that it currently protects.
Background on the Supreme Court Case
Over two years ago in September of 2017, Elaine Duke, the secretary of Homeland Security under President Trump, called for the end of the DACA program. This action was meant to entirely prevent new applications to the DACA program and to phase out the DACA program for current recipients, ending their protection from deportation. However, in January of 2018, a federal judge in California blocked the order and issued a preliminary injunction to protect Dreamers, allowing for the continuation of DACA as it existed prior to September of 2017. This caused the government shutdown in late January of 2018 over government funding issues related to DACA and the Dreamers. As of right now, no new applications can be accepted to DACA, but previous recipients have been able to renew their status thanks to decisions issued by lower courts.
The current case before the Supreme Court is more complicated than a decision over whether or not DACA will remain in place. It’s actually a decision about whether the current administration went about ending DACA in a legal manner. The Trump Administration relied on a previous ruling from a Texas appeals court that Obama’s policy of DAPA– Deferred Action for Parents of Americans– was unconstitutional. However, lower courts have argued that DAPA and DACA are entirely different policies, and that the DAPA ruling is not sufficient to establish precedent for DACA. A ruling from the Supreme Court on the legality of the administration’s decision to end DACA is expected in June of 2020.
Impact of the Supreme Court’s Ruling
Although the Department of Homeland Security. v. Regents of the University of California case is about legal precedent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said on Tuesday that in reality, “This is not about the law. This is about our choice to destroy lives”. She is correct. President Trump’s campaign was marred with anti-immigrant rhetoric and racism towards Latinx citizens and immigrants alike. In ending DACA, the administration will force nearly 800,000 Americans to live in fear of deportation. Many of these individuals speak only English, know no other country outside of the US, and would lose the opportunity to contribute to the US economy. The Supreme Court must recognize the negative human impacts of a ruling in favor of the Department of Homeland Security and choose to protect DACA.
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