Equity & Diversity

After Supreme Court Declines to Hear Trump’s Appeal, DACA Is Still on the Books

By Corey Mitchell — February 26, 2018 3 min read
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For months, March 5 was the deadline for determining the fate of DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The date is now meaningless.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up a lawsuit over the future of DACA, which protects 690,000 undocumented immigrants from deportation and grants them work permits.

The High Court’s decision represents a temporary victory for the young adults brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents or guardians under the program established by President Barack Obama in 2012: It ensures DACA will remain in effect for recipients after the March 5 deadline originally set by President Donald Trump.

DACA-protected immigrants whose permits lapsed, or those with permits that will expire soon, may continue to apply for renewals for the time being.

The Washington-based Migration Policy Institute estimates that a quarter-million students have become DACA-eligible since President Barack Obama began the program in 2012 and that about 9,000 undocumented, DACA-protected teachers work in U.S. schools. On top of that, millions of U.S.-born students in the nation’s schools are the children of undocumented immigrants, many of whom aren’t protected by DACA and are at risk for deportation.

On the political front, the Supreme Court decision takes some of the immediate pressure off lawmakers in Congress trying to pass immigration legislation by the early March deadline.

In terms of what DACA means for undocumented immigrants, March 5 was merely a point that would accelerate the end of the program.

The end of the program actually began on September 5, 2017, when the Trump administration stopped accepting new applications for the program. That means eligible undocumented immigrants who turned 15 after that date still won’t be able to apply, and neither will immigrants who would have qualified for DACA but never applied.

DACA Permits Are Expiring

Since the fall, roughly 120 immigrants per day have had their DACA-issued work permits expire because they were unable to apply in time for renewals, according to estimates from the Center for American Progress.

The Migration Policy Institute estimated that the number of immigrants losing their protected status would speed up after March 5, with an average of 915 DACA permits expiring daily.

But due to a pair of recent court decisions, and now the Supreme Court’s refusal, that acceleration may not happen.

In January, a federal judge in California blocked the Trump administration’s efforts to end DACA and told U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to resume accepting renewal applications from immigrants who had DACA protection and lost it or are in danger of losing it. In February, a federal judge in New York issued a similar injunction.

How many DACA recipients have been able to take advantage of the rulings is unclear. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the federal agency that oversees immigration policy, does not have data on how many renewal requests are coming in, said Steve Blando, an agency spokesman.

Legal Battle Over DACA

Seeking to bypass a step in the appeals process, the U.S. Justice Department petitioned the Supreme Court to intervene in the case, allowing the Trump administration to bypass the U.S. Court of Appeal for the 9th Circuit, in San Francisco, in its bid end DACA.

The justices could have agreed to hear the case this spring, leapfrogging a federal appeals court based in California that has been sympathetic to the cause of immigrants.

On immigration issues, the 9th Circuit has been a thorn in the side of the Trump administration, upholding injunctions against the president’s travel ban, an executive order that temporarily barred immigrants from six predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States, and an executive order designed to deny federal funds to “sanctuary cities,” governments that decline to use their resources to help enforce federal immigration laws.

It’s not clear when the 9th Circuit will hear the latest Trump administration appeal—and the case could eventually end up before the Supreme Court. The announcement that came down from the nation’s highest court on Monday means they won’t hear the case this session; it doesn’t preclude them from considering it in the future.

Photo Credit: A woman wears flags from across the Americas in her hair as she attends a rally in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program on Feb. 7 at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation, near the Capitol in Washington.

--Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Image Credit: Migration Policy Institute

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.