Many young Americans — in their hearts if not on paper — sighed with relief Thursday morning after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that DACA, or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, created by President Barack Obama in 2012, will stand for now. The court rejected the Trump administration’s attempts to dismantle the program, which protects nearly 650,000 “Dreamers” — some 24,230 of whom live in North Carolina — who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children or came with families who overstayed visas and made this their home.
The program itself wasn’t justified, though — the court’s 5-4 ruling, with Chief Justice John Roberts joining the four liberal justices, echoed lower-court rulings that the Trump administration didn’t follow the proper procedures for ending the program, but tried to end it in an “arbitrary and capricious” manner. The court said the administration did not properly weigh how ending the program would affect those who had come to rely on its protections against deportation, and their ability to work legally.
“The dispute before the Court is not whether DHS (U.S. Department of Homeland Security ) may rescind DACA. All parties agree that it may,” Roberts wrote. “The dispute is instead primarily about the procedure the agency followed in doing so.”
Trump’s reaction was characteristically personal; he tweeted, among other things, “Do you get the impression that the Supreme Court doesn’t like me?”
The danger now is that the Trump administration has been given a road map for ending the program. With any luck, more urgent matters will take the president’s attention. Like the current pandemic.
Trump first tried to dismantle DACA in 2017. At the same time, he said, “I have a great heart for the folks we are talking about, a great love for them.” Talk about mixed messages.
But Trump also said that ultimately it was a problem that Congress should solve, and he’s right about that. Congress should have settled the matter years ago, as part of comprehensive immigration reform.
Instead, both Democrats and Republicans have exploited immigration as a weapon. The DREAM Act, which would have accomplished what DACA did, was kicked back and forth for over a decade. The American people should demand loudly and continuously that their representatives pass laws allowing the dreamers to live as citizens of the country they’ve known and loved most of their lives.
These are good people who wound up here through no fault of their own and are productive and law-abiding. To be eligible for the program, they first had to step forward and be identified; then, they had to contribute to society by working, attending college or serving in the military. To remain in the program, they had to stay out of trouble with the law.
More than 90% of DACA recipients are employed and 45% are in school, according to one government study. Many of them — one estimate is 30,000 — work in the health care industry and are helping to fight COVID-19.
They contribute to the economy, to our tax base and to our culture. They deserve permanent relief from the threat of deportation.
If this Congress won’t fix this problem, we need to elect one that will.