Reflection on the SCOTUS Decision on DACA

By Lizzette Arias, Executive Director, Dream Project
and Victoria Gonzalez, Senior Intern, Dream Project

Background of the Case

In June 2012, President Barack Obama established DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). This executive order followed various failed attempts to pass the DREAM Act in Congress.

At the same time, the Dream Project had just awarded its second round of renewable college scholarships to 14 undocumented students. These high-achieving immigrants were headed into college with the promise that this new DACA program would help them achieve their educational goals and dreams.

June 2012 – just a few days before DACA was announced at the 2nd ever Dream Project Award Ceremony

In September 2017, President Donald Trump announced he would begin phasing out DACA over the next sixth months. He alleged that the creation of the program was an overreach of President Obama’s authority and that such legislation should be within the purview of Congress.

By 2017, the Dream Project had 95 Dream Scholars, many of whom were DACA recipients deeply distraught by the administration’s misguided decision to end the program. Our high school students did not know if they should even apply to college, and our college graduates did not know if they would be able to continue their careers for much longer. The uncertainty was high and the possibilities frightening, but the resilience of our and other undocumented students across the country motivated the community to fight back.

June 2017 – just three months before the Trump administration decided to end the DACA program

As a result, several states, universities, individuals, and interest and advocacy groups filed lawsuits disputing President Trump’s termination of the program. The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case in June 2019, consolidating various of these legal challenges into the case now known as Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California.

Nelcy, Dream Project Scholar and Senator Tim Kaine at the November 12, 2019 Rally in front of the Supreme Court. This was the day the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the DACA case (Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California.)

Details of the Decision

Issue

The primary issue in the case was whether President Trump’s termination of DACA was lawful and subject to review by the Supreme Court.

Arguments

DACA advocates argued that the program was established legally and President Trump’s termination was announced unlawfully. They did not dispute the President’s authority to end the program, only that he did so improperly. They said the government violated equal protection and due process rights as well as the Administrative Procedural Act by failing to provide notice or an opportunity for comment on the policy change’s effects. DACA advocates also argued that the decision to end the program was arbitrary and the administration did not provide adequate justification for their decision.

President Trump’s lawyers primarily argued that the case was not under the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court because the President possessed sufficient executive authority to terminate the program. If the Court found the case to be within their jurisdiction, these lawyers argued that President Obama created the program in an unlawful exploitation of his own executive authority.

Decision

On June 18, 2020, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of upholding DACA. Besides determining that the case was under the Court’s jurisdiction, it also decided that President Trump’s termination of the program was in violation of the Administrative Procedural Act when he failed to give adequate justification for ending the program.

Just a week ago, the Dream Project awarded 100 Dream Project Scholarships to undocumented students! Each student received $2,000. Although we could not celebrate in person, we hosted a virtual award ceremony for our students. A recording of the Award Ceremony will be available at Dreamproject-va.org soon!

Implications for DACA Recipients

Safe for Now, But Not Forever

However, this decision does not mean DACA is protected forever. The White House could once again try to terminate the program by providing a just and detailed explanation for its action. Since the DACA program currently exists under an executive order, only an act of Congress can bring permanent protections into law. Moving forward, encourage your senators and representatives to move for Congress to formalize DACA.

DACAsupremecourt2020

June 18, 2020 – Outside the Supreme Court hours after news of the ruling on the DACA case

At the moment, DACA work authorizations can be renewed, and new DACA applications will be accepted, but there are still many unknowns. We at the Dream Project will continue to monitor the situation and provide additional details as they become available. However, for all Dreamers and allies, take this moment to celebrate such a historic occasion with your family and friends.

Resources

As you rejoice in this victory, check out the following organizations and resources for further information regarding DACA: FWD.us, United We Dream, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Informed Immigrant, and National Immigration Law Center.