On November 12, 2019, the Supreme Court of the United States heard Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California, a case that will decide the future of nearly 700,000 young, undocumented immigrants. A decision is expected no later than June of 2020.
The case stems from the Department of Homeland Security’s decision in 2017 to end the DACA program (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). The administration’s justification is that it had no choice because DACA is unlawful. In response, organizations and governments throughout the country filed lawsuits in an attempt to reverse the program’s termination. These lawsuits forced the government to resume the DACA program and accept new applications until the official ruling from the Supreme Court.
Potential Case Results
Here are three possible outcomes of this case:
- The Supreme Court decides that courts do not have the power to review the decision to terminate DACA. Unfortunately, this means the orders from other courts that have kept DACA alive would no longer be in effect, and the Trump administration would be able to terminate the program.
- The Court decides it was lawful for the administration to terminate DACA. As with the first outcome, this decision would automatically end DACA.
- The Court decides it was unlawful for the administration to terminate DACA. This is the best-case scenario for DACA recipients, as it would, at the very least, return the country to where it was before the administration made the decision to rescind DACA.
Unfortunately, even if the Supreme Court makes the third decision, the administration could still lawfully end DACA if it provides better justifications. However, some attorneys believe Trump’s administration is hoping for this outcome. The administration could have picked any number of justifications for ending the program, but they purposely chose one that is on shaky legal ground (i.e. that DACA is an unlawful program). This leads some to wonder if Trump’s administration wants the Supreme Court to keep DACA alive while they can still claim they tried to end the program. If this theory is true AND the Supreme Court goes with the last option, DACA may be here to stay.
Based on the arguments before the Supreme Court, one of the first two options seems to be the most likely outcome, which means there is a strong possibility that DACA will end. Five of the Supreme Court justices seem to believe either that courts do not have the power to review the decision to end DACA or that the decision to terminate DACA was lawful. Four justices oppose those views and believe the administration’s termination of DACA was unlawful. Unfortunately, it only takes five to make law, so it seems likely that DACA will come to some end.
What Will the End Look Like?
The bright side for DACA recipients is that most (if not all) of the justices seemed sympathetic to the plight of DACA recipients. Hopefully, this indicates they may be lenient when they end the program. At one point in the argument, the Chief Justice considered the idea of winding down the DACA program in measured steps to minimize the negative effects on the people who would lose their status.
In this case, DACA recipients could potentially maintain their employment authorization until their expiration dates. Additionally, the Supreme Court seemed optimistic that the government would keep its promise of not targeting former recipients for deportation. Although they would no longer have legal protection against deportation, DACA recipients could be allowed to stay for the time being.
What Should You Do?
Consult with an attorney. Every case is different, but many DACA recipients may be eligible or may become eligible to obtain lawful status through family-based immigration.