WASHINGTON • The US Supreme Court has dealt President Donald Trump a major blow in his hardline immigration policies, blocking his bid to end a programme that protects from deportation hundreds of thousands of immigrants – often called Dreamers – who entered the country illegally as children.
The 5-4 ruling on Thursday, with conservative Chief Justice John Roberts joining the court’s four liberals, upheld lower court decisions that found that Mr Trump’s 2017 move to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca) programme, created in 2012 by his Democratic predecessor Barack Obama, was unlawful.
The administration’s actions, the justices ruled, were “arbitrary and capricious” under a federal law called the Administrative Procedure Act.
The ruling means that the roughly 649,000 immigrants, mostly young Hispanic adults born in Mexico and other Latin American countries, enrolled in Daca will remain protected – for now – from deportation and will be eligible to obtain renewable two-year work permits.
The ruling does not prevent Mr Trump from trying again to end the programme. But his administration could find it difficult to rescind Daca – and win any ensuing legal battle – before the Nov 3 election in which Mr Trump is seeking a second term in office.
“We do not decide whether Daca or its rescission are sound policies. We address only whether the agency complied with the procedural requirement that it provide a reasoned explanation for its action,” Justice Roberts wrote, referring to Mr Trump’s Department of Homeland Security.
“These horrible & politically charged decisions coming out of the Supreme Court are shotgun blasts into the face of people that are proud to call themselves Republicans or Conservatives,” Mr Trump wrote on Twitter after the ruling.
The Republican President said he wanted “a legal solution on Daca, not a political one” and that “now we have to start this process all over again”.
Despite the Supreme Court ruling, the nearly 650,000 Dreamers still face an uncertain future, as a separate challenge led by the state of Texas springs back into action.
While the Supreme Court ruled that the Trump administration had sidestepped federal procedures in rescinding Daca, the separate challenge, which has been simmering since 2018, argues the same in reverse – that Mr Obama exceeded his own authority by going around the rule when he implemented Daca in the first place.
The federal judge in charge of the Texas challenge had deferred ruling on the Mr Obama question until the Supreme Court issued its decision on the Dreamers.
US District Judge Andrew Hanen on Thursday gave lawyers for both sides until July 24 to tell him how they think the decision affects the Texas case. He said he would set a timetable for resuming the case after receiving those reports.