On November 12, the Supreme Court considers whether the Trump administration violated legal procedure in its attempt to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals: DACA. The September 5, 2017 order cancelling DACA has been challenged in federal courts across the country, with three separate courts ordering temporary suspension of the order while cases are litigated. The challenge that the Supreme Court will hear is summarized in The New Yorker:
“A team of lawyers from the firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, along with several groups of DACA recipients, advocates, universities, and multiple states nationwide, will argue that the President ended DACA without properly considering the impact the decision would have on its seven hundred thousand recipients and their families—more than a million people in total. A federal statute called the Administrative Procedures Act requires the government to provide transparent and substantial reasons for adopting public policies, whereas the Trump Administration, these groups have argued, acted in an ‘arbitrary and capricious’ way, a violation of the law.”
After hearing the arguments on November 12, the Supreme Court likely will take months to consider the case and issue a decision. That decision could come as early as January or as late as June 2020.
In the meantime, DACA recipients remain in limbo, and no new applications can be made. For example, someone brought to the United States as an infant in 2003, living here since that time, and now attending high school would have been eligible to apply for DACA on their 15th birthday in 2018. The Trump administration action prevented them from applying. If the Supreme Court finds that the cancellation of DACA was illegal, they could apply for DACA protection—unless the Trump administration tries again, with a new rationale, to cancel DACA.
DACA status does not offer any road to permanent residence or citizenship, only a temporary, two-year protection from deportation and permission to work. DACA recipients must pay a new $495 fee and re-apply every two years. Someone who had received DACA protection before September 5, 2017 is allowed to apply for renewal under the federal court decisions suspending the Trump administration order.
Luis Cortes, one of the attorneys presenting the case before the Supreme Court, is himself a DACA recipient. Now 31 years old, he came to the United States at the age of one year old. His current DACA status expires in 2021 and, The New Yorker’s Jonathan Blitzer reports:
“[He] plans to renew it in 2020, just in case something unexpected happens at the Supreme Court. ‘We’re anticipating a spring decision,’ he told me. ‘So it might not be a bad idea to renew it around March and get an extra year.’”
Indeed, ICE is already moving to re-start deportation proceedings for some DACA recipients in Tucson, Las Vegas, and Phoenix. The Trump administration also announced an increase in renewal fees, from $495 to $765.
Protecting DACA recipients protects all of us. As Dr. David J. Skorton, a cardiologist and president and CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges, wrote in the Washington Post:
“Today there are approximately 27,000 doctors, nurses, dentists, physician assistants and other health-care workers whose DACA status allows them to work and contribute to patient care. The program also is enabling nearly 200 current medical students and medical residents to pursue careers in medicine….
“Excluding these talented individuals from the workforce would do more than simply thwart their professional aspirations. It would also deprive a huge number of Americans of accessing quality care. In fact, research indicates that the physicians and trainees who stand to lose their eligibility if DACA is eliminated would, collectively, serve as many as 5.1 million patients over the course of their careers.”
Only Congress can act to provide permanent protection for DACA recipients and the other Dreamers: the young people who have grown up in the United States, who know no other home, and who remain at risk of deportation because they have no permanent legal status.