The fate of DACA programme recipients is now more uncertain than ever — the US Supreme Court heard the arguments on this initiative and could support Trump, who has called for the programme to be abolished.
Martha Andrés Román
Romina Montenegro arrived in the United States in 2001. She was two years old and came from Argentina.
Romina lives in Florida and the last 18 years without residency papers have been long ones; however, she can study thanks to rights provided by DACA, now in danger from the Trump administration. “I came all the way here to protect myself, my brother and many friends who are also under DACA; we hope the court says that what the president did —wanting to end the programme— wasn’t legal,” Romina told Prensa Latina.
Jensy Matute was born in Central America and brought to the United States at the age of two — since then she has never returned to her country of origin. “It made me anxious, it scared me. I thought it’s awful that somebody has the power to send me to a place I don’t know, where I have family, but I don’t feel as connected to that culture as I do to the culture here. My home has always been here,” she stated.
Both women travelled from Florida to join the thousands of DACA beneficiaries and supporters, who defend the programme’s continuation, congregating outside the Supreme Court building on the day of the oral arguments in support of ending this initiative.
President Donald Trump, who has pushed an agenda to reduce both illegal and legal immigration to the country, ordered the scrapping of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in September 2017.
The programme had come into force in 2012, under the Barack Obama administration (2009-2017).
This programme —which has benefitted more than 700,000 undocumented young people who were brought to the country during their childhood and are known as “dreamers”— does not offer a route to a legal migration status. However, it does protect them from deportation, while also providing permission to study and work. Trump’s decision to abolish the initiative triggered a number of legal challenges; these led to the country’s highest court hearing the oral arguments of the parties in three cases on the matter, on 12th November.
In each of these disputes, other lower courts ruled against the Republican administration’s scrapping of the initiative. For its part, the Department of Homeland Security, the programme’s administrator, continued to renew the beneficiaries’ permits.
As part of the process, the Supreme Court will have to decide if the executive incorrectly tried to close the programme by declaring it illegal, and without offering a detailed explanation or analysing the effect of this measure on the immigrant population.
The court’s decision could be made in summer 2020, therefore the topic will certainly have a significant place in campaigns for the presidential elections in November of that year.
Although Obama implemented DACA through an executive order, defenders of the programme say that Trump cannot simply stop it by branding it illegal, and they declare that federal law requires the government to give a detailed explanation of the reasons for wanting to end the programme.
The president, however, maintains that his predecessor did not have the authority to approve the programme’s implementation, and has said that Obama himself recognised that he did not have the legal right to sign the order, something refuted by numerous sources.
Possible support for Trump
After the oral arguments, several US media outlets reported that the nine members of the country’s highest court seemed divided along ideological lines on Trump’s decision to end the programme. This could be favourable for the Head of State, given the majority of five conservative justices to four liberal ones.
As reported by the New York Times, the liberal justices investigated the administration’s justifications for ending the programme, and expressed scepticism about the reasons given by the executive for taking this step.
But other justices, including the two named by Trump, indicated that they would not question the government’s reasoning, and in any case, they considered its explanations sufficient.
However, the justices agreed that the young people participating in the DACA programme invoke sympathy, and that they, their families, schools and employers, had trusted in this mechanism in good faith.
Likewise, Chief Justice John Roberts noted that the administration had a solid basis for declaring DACA illegal, but he also stated that the Supreme Court could rule humanely, with the aim of minimising the difficulties that would be faced by the programme’s beneficiaries if it were definitively brought to an end.
According to the NBC News television channel, experts consider that if the Supreme Court were to rule in favour of the head of state, it is unlikely that all those registered under DACA would immediately be deported.
Of course, the court’s ruling will determine the next steps. But the media channel indicated that if Trump prevails, it is likely that the administration will implement a gradual winding down of the programme, similar to that attempted before the lower courts blocked its scrapping.
As the permits issued by the programme are valid for two years, immigration lawyers and experts believe that a possible outcome would be for these permissions not to be renewed by the executive once those currently in force expire. (PL)
(Translated by Rebecca Ndhlovu – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org) – Photos: Pixabay