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4 things you should know about the Supreme Court case on DACA

DACA rally in Philly
Photo: Nathaniel Doubleday / AFSC

Hundreds of thousands of young people who came to the U.S. as children face uncertainty about their futures under President Trump’s decision to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). On Nov. 12, the Supreme Court heard arguments on the administration’s unlawful attempt to terminate DACA.  

DACA was an executive action announced by President Obama in 2012. The program now stops the deportation of an estimated 700,000 eligible individuals who came to the U.S. as children and gives them permission to work.

Here’s what you need to know about the Supreme Court case and how you can stand with DACA recipients across the country.  

1. Since the Trump administration announced it would terminate DACA in 2017, DACA recipients have organized to counteract the decision – as well as the administration’s aggressive efforts to deport millions of other immigrants with deep roots in our communities.  

More than 10 lawsuits challenging the termination were filed across the country, and multiple judges have ruled that the way DACA was terminated was illegal. These decisions effectively halted the termination of DACA, meaning that DACA recipients can still apply to renew their status, but new applications for DACA are not being accepted.  On Nov. 12, the Supreme Court will hear the arguments of three of the 10 cases. A final decision on the case is expected in June 2020.   

2. People who currently have or previously had DACA can continue to apply to renew their DACA. 

Advocates and legal service providers are encouraging DACA recipients to renew their application as soon as possible to avoid being caught up in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision. For a list of organizations that help with DACA renewals, visit the Home is Here website.  

3. The Supreme Court could hand down a range of decisions.  

The questions that the court will review include whether the decision to end DACA is reviewable by the courts, whether the Trump administration’s actions violated federal law, and whether the decision was motivated by discriminatory factors.  

The resulting decisions could include:  

  • Concluding it does not want to review Trump’s decision to terminate DACA, signifying that the court does not have the legal authority to review the case. This would leave the fate of DACA recipients in the hands of the Trump administration and future administrations. 
  • Ruling that the way the administration terminated DACA was lawful, allowing the administration to move forward as it sees fit.  
  • Ruling that the way DACA was terminated was unlawful. This could be a win for DACA recipients, preserving their DACA status and possibly allowing others to apply for the program. But it could also allow the administration to attempt to terminate DACA again based on a different legal reason.  
  • Ruling that the Obama administration was unlawful in creating DACA. That could set in motion a range of consequences that strip current DACA recipients from protection and leave current and potential DACA recipients vulnerable to detention and deportation.  

4. Ultimately, only legislation–not litigation–can provide a permanent solution for DACA recipients and their families under attack by this administration.  

The courts cannot solve this problem. We need legislation that keeps families and communities together. Bills have been introduced in Congress that would protect DACA recipients from deportation. In June 2019, the House of Representatives passed the Dream and Promise Act, a bill that would offer a roadmap to citizenship for DACA recipients and others eligible for DACA. The Senate is now considering similar legislation.   

Take action today! Tell your Senator to protect DACA recipients and call for humane immigration policies that respect the rights and dignity of all people.  

About the Author

Peniel Ibe is the policy engagement coordinator at AFSC’s Office of Public Policy and Advocacy. She leads AFSC’s advocacy efforts to coordinate grassroots engagement strategies to impact policy change. She is an immigrant from Nigeria who recently relocated to the United States and is advocating for the rights of others like her.

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