In a closely split decision, the Supreme Court ruled the Trump administration unlawfully terminated the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in 2017.
The Supreme Court’s decision allows DACA to remain in effect but still provides an opportunity to rescind the program if the administration follows appropriate procedures and provides a more thorough justification.
DACA was implemented by a 2012 executive order from the Obama administration; the program protects from deportation certain undocumented immigrants who entered the United States as children and allows them to be eligible for employment in the U.S. for two-year periods. About 800,000 individuals have received protection under DACA since the program began.
In 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions directed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to disband the program, arguing it was unlawful. Following this directive, then-Acting Secretary of DHS Elaine Duke disbanded the program, providing her rationale in a memorandum. Multiple plaintiffs — including individual DACA recipients, various states, and organizations — filed suit against the administration in three federal district courts, alleging the rescission of DACA violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. Following district court decisions favorable to the plaintiffs, the government appealed the cases to various federal courts of appeals and ultimately asked the Supreme Court to review the issue.
America’s Essential Hospitals, in coalition with 33 national hospital and health care associations, filed an amicus brief last October, asking the Supreme Court to allow DACA to remain intact because of the adverse effects rescission would have on health care institutions and their employees.
Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the five justices in the majority, states DHS violated the APA in rescinding DACA. Specifically, DHS did not provide a “reasoned explanation” justifying its rescission of DACA or account for the significant reliance interests that DACA created. The ruling notes DHS did not adequately consider the effect rescission would have on those who rely on DACA, or consider alternatives to keeping parts of DACA in place. Notably, the majority opinion stresses the court ruling does not “decide whether DACA or its rescission are sound policies.” Instead, the opinion hinges on the failure of DHS to follow appropriate procedural requirements under the APA.
The scope of the decision allows the administration to attempt to rescind DACA again, although it is unlikely it would be able to do so before the November election. In the meantime, DHS will have to allow new applicants to apply for DACA and allow existing DACA recipients to apply for renewals.
Contact Senior Director of Policy Erin O’Malley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202.585.0127 with questions.