The US supreme court has rejected Donald Trump’s bid to end the program which made it possible for undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children to live and work in the US without fear of deportation.There are more than 652,800 people, including doctors fighting the coronavirus, who could be affected by the decision about the program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (commonly known by its acronym, Daca).Daca allowed young people, known as Dreamers, who were raised without legal immigration status in the US to get renewable, two-year authorizations to live and work in the country. It did not provide a path to citizenship.Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the 5-4 majority opinion, arguing that the Trump administration’s decision to end the program was “arbitrary and capricious”.The case hinged primarily on whether the Trump administration followed proper procedure in its decision to end the program – not whether it could legally end it. As the majority opinion states, “all parties agree that it may”.This decision leaves open the possibility that the Trump administration could seek, again, to end the program, though it would be difficult to do before the November election.Such a decision would also be unpopular – there is broad support for Dreamers. Even a majority of Trump supporters said the group should be protected, according to a Politico and Morning Consult poll published this month.Barack Obama enacted Daca in 2012. The policy landed in the court system after the Trump administration rescinded it in September 2017. Trump has repeatedly said he supports the people Daca shielded from deportation, but for nearly three years their futures have been uncertain as the policy wound through the legal system.
The supreme court weighed whether the program could continue, at a November hearing.The effort to seek protections for this population emerged two decades ago, with the introduction of the Dream Act in 2001. For the next 20 years, Congress repeatedly tried and failed to pass different versions of the legislation. Meanwhile, a fervent group of activists created an influential movement to secure protections for this group, known as Dreamers.In states including California, Washington and New York, Dreamer activists pushed for laws that made it possible for them to get driver’s licenses and to qualify for college loans and reduced tuition programs.As of September 2019, 652,880 people had Daca, including roughly 27,000 healthcare practitioners and nearly 9,000 teachers. About 80% of the people who have it are from Mexico and nearly half live in California and Texas.There would be 1.3 million people eligible for the program today if the Trump administration had not cancelled it in 2017, according to an estimate from the Migration Policy Institute.Daca is a popular policy. A month before the November supreme court hearing, 53% of voters said they would oppose a decision by the supreme court to end Daca, in a Marquette University law school poll.When people are polled about the policy, not about agreeing with the supreme court, Daca consistently receives even more bipartisan, majority support. A June 2020 Pew Research survey showed 74% of Americans favored a law which would give legal status to undocumented immigrants who were brought to the US as children.One of the most powerful Dreamer supporters appeared to be Trump, who spoke positively about the population even while stripping away protections for them and their families.“Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military? Really!” Trump tweeted, days after ending the program in September 2017.His administration said shutting Daca down was necessary because it was implemented illegally by Obama in 2012. Trump defended his contradictory position by claiming that eliminating the program would force Congress to reach a deal that supported Dreamers.Instead, lower courts debated the legality of Daca while the issue received little attention in Congress. Those courts’ decisions allowed Daca to continue, but only for people who had already received it.By the time the issue reached the supreme court, the case was focused on government rule-making, not whether the program should exist. The first question the supreme court had to answer was whether the nation’s highest court even had jurisdiction to review the case. The court determined it did.Much of the supreme court’s discussion at the November oral argument centered on the administrative law which formed the foundation of the case. But Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina supreme court justice, urged the court to consider the human aspect of the case, particularly because the president had said he would keep Dreamers safe.“That, I think, has something to be considered before you rescind a policy,” Sotomayor said to the government’s lawyer.She continued: “Not just say I’ll give you six months to do it, to destroy your lives.”
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