In a high-stakes case with multiple implications in education, the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday blocked the Trump administration’s decision to unwind deportation relief for nearly 700,000 undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children.
The court ruled 5-4 that the rescission of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program started in 2012 under President Barack Obama, was carried out in an “arbitrary and capricious” manner in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act.
“We do not decide whether DACA or its rescission are sound policies,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said in the majority opinion in Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California (Case No. 18-587). “The wisdom of those decisions is none of our concern. We address only whether the agency [DHS] complied with the procedural requirement that it provide a reasoned explanation for its action.”
Roberts said DHS failed to properly consider the issues of whether to retain the DACA policy’s two-year “forbearance” of deportation and “what if anything to do about the hardship to DACA recipients.”
The chief justice was joined on that key holding by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan.
Sotomayor did not join a portion of Roberts’s opinion that rejected a claim that the rescission violated the equal-protection guarantee of the Fifth Amendment.
Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr., Neil M. Gorsuch, and Brett M. Kavanaugh dissented on the question of whether the rescission violated administrative law, writing or joining several separate opinions.
“To state it plainly, the Trump administration rescinded DACA the same way that the Obama administration created it: unilaterally, and through a mere memorandum,” Thomas wrote, in a dissent joined by Alito and Gorsuch. “Today’s decision must be recognized for what it is: an effort to avoid a politically controversial but legally correct decision.”
Kavanaugh said, “all nine members of the court accept, as do the DACA plaintiffs themselves, that the Executive Branch possesses the legal authority to rescind DACA and to resume pre-DACA enforcement of the immigration laws enacted by Congress.”
“Although I disagree with the court’s decision to remand, the only practical consequence of the court’s decision to remand appears to be some delay,” Kavanaugh said.
Higher education institutions, the American Federation of Teachers, immigration civil rights groups, and individuals are among the parties that challenged the rescission of DACA. And numerous other education groups filed friend-of-the-court briefs supporting DACA recipients.
A longer version of this story appears here.
A version of this news article first appeared in The School Law Blog.