The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday agreed to decide the legality of the Trump administration’s efforts to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which since 2012 has provided more than 700,000 undocumented young people who came to the United States before age 16 relief from deportation and the chance to pursue education and work.
One federal appeals court and several federal district courts have blocked the 2017 rescission of DACA on the grounds that it was arbitrary and capricious under the Administrative Procedure Act. Various injunctions have permitted those who had received DACA relief to seek renewal for two-year periods, but no new participants have been allowed to apply, including those who would have aged into eligibility when they turned 15 years old.
Still, there are some DACA recipients who entered the program late in President Barack Obama’s administration (or early in President Donald Trump’s tenure) who are still in high school, while many more are “Dreamers,” those of college age who are able to pursue higher education under the federal program. And the DACA program, along with the wider debate over federal immigration policies, has been widely felt in the nation’s K-12 schools.
“DACA has been successful in enabling hundreds of thousands of young people to pursue higher education and work legally, without the fear of deportation,” says a brief signed by Princeton University, the American Federation of Teachers and other parties who are part of one challenge to the Trump administration’s effort to withdraw the policy.
“Prior to 2012, millions of young people raised in this country were compelled by circumstances beyond their control to live in the shadows,” the brief says. “Brought here as children, they attended American schools, contributed to American communities, and strived to achieve American dreams. But because they were not lawfully present, their lives did not resemble those of their American classmates.”
But the U.S. Department of Justice has repeatedly asked the Supreme Court to take up its request to review the injunctions blocking the withdrawal of DACA and declare that the decision by the Department of Homeland Security was lawful.
“These cases concern the Executive Branch’s authority to revoke a discretionary policy of non-enforcement that is sanctioning an ongoing violation of federal immigration law by nearly 700,000 aliens,” U.S. Solicitor General Noel J. Francisco said in a brief submitted last fall.
The administration argues that the 2012 DACA program, which was initiated by Obama based on his executive authority, violates federal immigration law in the same way that two later Obama programs did—an expanded DACA and the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, known as DAPA.
Those latter programs were blocked by a federal district court in Texas, in a ruling that was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, in New Orleans. The Supreme Court deadlocked 4-4 in an appeal of that decision in 2016, which affirmed the 5th Circuit without an opinion, which effectively killed those programs.
“The  DACA policy is materially indistinguishable from the related policies that the 5th Circuit held were contrary to federal immigration law in a decision that four justices of this court voted to affirm,” Francisco said in his November 2018 brief urging the high court to review the case.
The decision to hear the cases came on June 28, in a final orders list from the Supreme Court one day after the formal end of its 2018-19 term. Three separate appeals were consolidated and will be heard in the court term that begins in October. They are Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California (Case No. 18-587), Trump v. NAACP (No. 18-588), and McAleenan v. Vidal (No. 18-589).
A version of this news article first appeared in The School Law Blog.