On June 18, 2020, a narrowly divided Supreme Court of the United States held that the Court can review the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and that the Trump administration's decision to terminate the program was arbitrary and capricious under the Administrative Procedure Act. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote the 5-4 decision in Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of University of California. DACA grants undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children permission to live and work lawfully. Those who had come to rely on DACA are known as "Dreamers."

The Court found that the administration did not follow procedures required by law and did not properly weigh how ending the program would affect those who had come to rely on its protections against deportation and the ability to work legally. The Court indicated that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has flexibility in addressing reliance interests by Dreamers and could have considered various accommodations. The Court stated that while the agency was not required to pursue these accommodations, it was required to assess the existence and strength of any reliance interests and weigh them against competing policy concerns. Its failure to do so was arbitrary and capricious. The Court stated that the appropriate recourse is to remand to DHS so that it may reconsider the problem anew.

DACA was implemented in 2012, and the Trump administration has been trying to roll it back since taking office, stating that it was illegal and unconstitutional. The administration maintained that DHS has "absolute discretion" to rescind the policy and that courts should not be permitted to review those types of decisions. The Court did not agree. Federal judges in Washington, D.C., New York and California blocked the termination while the lawsuits continued and kept DACA partially alive, allowing current DACA recipients to continue renewing their work permits. DHS had stopped accepting new applications while the cases were pending. Some 700,000 Dreamers, many of whom are first responders, medical personnel and essential workers, are affected by this decision.

Originally published June 18, 2020

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