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What the Supreme Court's DACA Ruling Means for Dreamers

Group stands with fellow DACA recipients during a press conference to discuss the Supreme Court case involving Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
By Andrew Leonatti on June 18, 2020

In a stunning ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court has rejected the Trump Administration's attempt to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

The 5-4 ruling throws a lifeline to the approximately 650,000 undocumented immigrants — known as "Dreamers" — who were brought to the United States as children, many of whom could face deportation if DACA ends.

While today's ruling will give many people cause for celebration, it does not permanently stop the Trump administration from dismantling DACA. This could only be a temporary roadblock.

What Is DACA?

Then-President Barack Obama created the DACA program through a 2012 executive order. It allows eligible applicants to remain free from deportation for two years and have that status renewed. This program, however, does not provide a path to a green card or U.S. citizenship.

To be eligible, applicants must meet several criteria, including:

  • Being brought to the U.S. before turning 16 and being younger than 31 as of June 15, 2012
  • Having lived in the U.S. continuously since June 15, 2007
  • Being enrolled in school or hold a high school diploma or have been honorably discharged from the U.S. military
  • Avoid being convicted of a felony, a "serious" misdemeanor, or any three misdemeanors

This program should not be confused with the DREAM Act, which has never been passed into law. If that occurs, it will provide many of the same protections as DACA.

The Trump administration stopped accepting first-time applications in 2017, and since has only been processing renewals. Today's ruling reopens the door for first-time applicants.

SCOTUS: Trump Administration Failed to Follow the Law

In his written opinion, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that the majority "do not decide whether DACA or its rescission are sound policies."

Instead, it found that the administration's moves to end the program were "arbitrary and capricious," and that the Department of Homeland Security failed to outline its rationale for ending it and did not consider the "hardship" to Dreamers.

In short, because the federal government offered protection to people who came forward and divulged their undocumented status, it must offer stronger reasoning for now taking those protections away.

Ruling Not a Guarantee of Safety

Because of the nature of the court's ruling, it is possible that the Trump administration could try again to end DACA, although that process will take time. If the administration is ever successful, it could still mean hundreds of thousands of Dreamers facing deportation orders. The administration may also choose to crack down hard on applications and deny many that it would have accepted before.

In the coming years, Congress could also attempt to pass the DREAM Act into law again, which would provide much stronger protections to the Dreamers.

That means you should continue to keep up to date with what is happening with DACA and other related immigration matters. And if the administration does announce further attempts to dismantle DACA, you should consider speaking with an immigration attorney to discuss what your options are for staying in the U.S. and avoiding deportation.

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