The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Sharply at odds with liberal justices, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority seemed ready on Nov. 12 to allow the Trump administration to abolish protections that permit 660,000 immigrants to work in the U.S., free from the threat of deportation.
That outcome would “destroy lives,” declared Justice Sonia Sotomayor, one of the court’s liberals who repeatedly suggested the administration has not adequately justified its decision to end the seven-year-old Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Nor has it taken sufficient account of the personal, economic and social disruption that might result, they said.
But there did not appear to be any support among the five conservatives for blocking the administration. The nine-member court’s decision is expected by June, at the height of the 2020 presidential campaign.
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson released a statement on Nov. 12 after argument before the Supreme Court.
“Nearly 18,000 Dreamers live and work in Washington, and they make our communities stronger.”
President Donald Trump said on Twitter that DACA recipients shouldn’t despair if the justices side with him, pledging that “a deal will be made with the Dems for them to stay!” But Trump’s past promises to work with Democrats on a legislative solution for these immigrants have led nowhere.
The president also said in his tweet that many program participants, brought to the U.S. as children and now here illegally, are “far from ‘angels,’” and he falsely claimed that “some are very tough, hardened criminals.” The program bars anyone with a felony conviction from participating, and serious misdemeanors may also bar eligibility.
Some DACA recipients, commonly known as “Dreamers,” were in the courtroom for the arguments, and many people camped out in front of the court for days for a chance at some of the few seats available. The term comes from never-passed proposals in Congress called the DREAM Act.
The high court arguments did not involve any discussion of individual DACA recipients or Trump’s claims. Instead the focus was on whether either of two administration rationales for ending DACA, begun under President Barack Obama, was enough.
Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh were among the justices who indicated that the administration has provided sufficient reason for doing away with the program.
Kavanaugh referred to Nielsen’s memo at one point as “a very considered decision.” Roberts suggested that worries that DACA is not legal might be enough to support ending it.
Roberts, who could hold the pivotal vote on the court, aimed his few questions at lawyers representing DACA recipients and their supporters. He did not seriously question the administration’s argument.
Justices Neil Gorsuch and Samuel Alito raised questions about whether courts should even be reviewing the executive branch’s discretionary decisions. Sotomayor made the only direct reference to Trump, saying he told DACA recipients “that they were safe under him and that he would find a way to keep them here. And so he hasn’t.”
Solicitor General Noel Francisco, representing the administration, asserted that the administration has taken responsibility for its decision and is relying on more than merely its belief that DACA is illegal. The administration has the authority to end DACA, even if it’s legal, because it’s bad policy, he said. “We own this,” Francisco said.