The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the Trump administration cannot carry out its plan to shut down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which has allowed nearly 800,000 young people, known as Dreamers, to avoid deportation and remain in the U.S.
Chief Justice John Roberts was the swing vote in the 5-4 decision, which deals a big legal defeat to President Donald Trump on the issue of immigration, a major focus of his domestic agenda.
Roberts wrote in the decision that the government failed to give an adequate justification for ending the federal program. The administration could again try to shut it down by offering a more detailed explanation for its action, but the White House might not want to end such a popular program in the heat of a presidential campaign.
Roberts was joined in the majority by the liberal Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor.
“We conclude that the acting secretary did violate” the Administrative Procedure Act, and that the decision to rescind DACA “must be vacated,” Roberts wrote. In his decision, Roberts called the Trump administration’s “total rescission” of DACA “arbitrary and capricious.”
The heart of Robert’s majority opinion held that Trump had broken the laws governing federal agencies when he ended DACA in 2017because the memorandum that recommended its termination did not address crucial parts of the policy.
In addition, every justice in the majority except Sotomayor dismissed the argument made by the parties that brought the case to the Supreme Court that the administration’s decision to terminate DACA was motivated by discrimination against Latinos.
Critically, however, Roberts pointed out in his decision that it wasn’t necessarily unconstitutional for the Trump administration to terminate DACA, but the way it did so was.
The chief justice pointed out toward the end of his opinion that the administration’s Department of Homeland Security could simply revisit its legal strategy on how to unwind DACA in the future.
“The appropriate recourse is therefore to remand to DHS so that it may reconsider the problem anew,” Roberts wrote.
The conservative Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh filed opinions that concurred with parts of the majority as well as with parts of the dissent — with several emphasizing that the majority ruling simple punted the issue back to the administration.
“The Court still does not resolve the question of DACA’s rescission,” Alito wrote in his dissent. “Instead, it tells the Department of Homeland Security to go back and try again.”
Thomas, in his dissent, wrote, “Today’s decision must be recognized for what it is: an effort to avoid a politically controversial but legally correct decision.” He added that the court “could have made clear” that a solution to the question over the status of the program must come from Congress through immigration legislation.
“Instead, the majority has decided to prolong DHS’ initial overreach by providing a stopgap measure of its own,” he wrote. “In doing so, it has given the greenlight for future political battles to be fought in this Court rather than where they rightfully belong — the political branches.”
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