The US Supreme Court decided on Thursday that the current administration could not end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program (DACA). Justice Roberts delivered the opinion of the court in the Department of Homeland Security v. Regents University of California, he was joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Kagan and Sotomayor.
DACA has allowed certain individuals who immigrated to the United States as children to apply for a two-year forbearance of removal. 700,000 individuals have utilized the program which additionally enables them to be eligible for work authorizations and other federal benefits. The initial reasoning for the establishment of DACA was that these children “lacked the intent to violate the law” when immigrating and have only known the US as home.
In November 2014, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) looked to expand the eligibility for DACA and create a new program for parents of DACA recipients, DAPA. However, 26 states sued regarding the expansion, claiming it violated the APA’s notice and comment requirement, the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), and the Take Care Clause of the Constitution. The District Court entered an injunction barring the planned expansion.
In June 2017, the Trump Administration’s DHS rescinded the memorandum that would have expanded the program. Later that year, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions sent a letter to then-Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke instructing the DHS to terminate the DACA program altogether. Acting Secretary Duke subsequently issued a memorandum that DACA be terminated.
The Court decided that “Acting Secretary Duke ‘failed to consider . . . important aspect[s] of the problem’ before her” when she terminated DACA. The Court noted that “[t]he 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.” The Court “do[es] not decide whether DACA or its rescission are sound policies.” Instead, “[the Court] address[ed] only whether the agency complied with the procedural requirement that it provide a reasoned explanation for its action.”
The Court ultimately concluded that DHS did not follow the proper procedures for rescinding DACA and that the “the total rescission was arbitrary and capricious.”
Justice Kavanaugh, in his dissent, explained that the arbitrary and capricious standard requires deference to the agency, and the justifications provided in DHS memorandums were sufficient to meet the standard.
This is the second decision in a week by the Supreme Court that has gone counter to the narrative of the Trump Administration.