On June 18, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision delivered by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, ruled that the administration was barred from terminating the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
This decision preserves protections for hundreds of thousands of young unauthorized immigrants currently present in the United States and appears to allow new DACA applications, which had been suspended during litigation. The Court summarized the core criteria for DACA eligibility, which allowed for certain unauthorized aliens who entered the United States as children to apply for a two-year forbearance of removal and further permitted work authorization and various federal benefits for this class of individuals, which encompassed approximately 700,000 people who have, since 2012, availed themselves of these benefits.
In 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a letter to the Acting Secretary of Homeland Security, Elaine Duke, advising her that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) should rescind DACA. Winding its way through the courts to the U.S. Supreme Court, the final decision centered on the appeals of three district courts and the authority of DHS to accept governmental claims that class-based relief should come only from Congress and not through executive non-enforcement. Further, among other factors, the decision highlighted the importance of projecting a message that immigration laws would be enforced against all classes and categories of aliens.
The Court’s decision focuses on the procedural issues and the authority of DHS to issue rules and regulations and not on the substance of the regulation itself. It is possible that the current administration may embark on a new rule-making process to enforce its contention that the DACA Presidential Order of 2012 and ensuing regulations issued by the DHS are contrary to the administration’s interpretation of current U.S. immigration rules.