In a 5-4 decision Thursday morning, conservative Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court’s four liberal justices to reject President Trump’s attempt to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, better known as DACA.
Thursday’s ruling is the second bombshell this week to come from the nation’s highest court, which ruled on Monday that employment discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans was prohibited by existing federal civil rights law. In both cases, Chief Justice Roberts, a conservative appointed by former President George W. Bush, broke with the party that nominated him, which President Trump bluntly characterized as a betrayal.
“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,” Trump tweeted Thursday morning.
The DACA program was created by former President Barack Obama via an executive order back in 2012 to allow immigrants who were brought to the United States as children to apply for a temporary reprieve from deportation and the authorization to work legally, which must be renewed every two years and doesn’t provide U.S citizenship.
President Trump promised on the campaign trail that he’d terminate Obama’s DACA order on the grounds that it was allegedly unconstitutional, a view shared by hard-line conservatives like Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who led a lawsuit against the federal government over DACA’s legality in order to pressure the Trump administration to rescind the program. Trump attempted to do just that in the fall of 2017, but was stymied by lower courts until the case moved all the way up to the Supreme Court.
There are an estimated 700,000 immigrants currently protected by DACA, who are commonly called “Dreamers” in reference to Obama’s failed DREAM Act legislation that would have provided a permanent path to citizenship. Tens of thousands of DREAMers live in the city of Houston, according to Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.
“The Supreme Court’s ruling that the Trump administration may not terminate DACA is a victory for DACA recipients and all Americans,” Turner said in a statement. “Over 32,000 Houston DACA recipients and their families have built lives, pursued their education, and contribute to our city, including $1.1 billion to Houston’s economy each year. They represent Houston’s present and our future.”
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo also voiced her support for the court’s latest ruling. “Dreamers are not strangers,” she said. “They serve in our military, they work as healthcare workers and first responders, they contribute to our country’s economy and they pledge allegiance to our flag. Today, I’m filled with pride that our judicial system stood up to divisiveness and did the right thing.”
The state Democratic party celebrated Thursday’s court decision as a major victory. “It is fiercely American to look out and protect one another,” said Gilberto Hinojosa, Chair of the Texas Democratic Party, in a prepared statement. “Our DREAMers have always deserved the same protections as anybody else and now they will get those protections they deserve. We applaud the Supreme Court for making the right decision.”
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Although the Supreme Court has struck down Trump’s attempt to wipe DACA off the books, they haven’t ruled definitively that the program itself is constitutionally protected in perpetuity.
“We do not decide whether DACA or its rescission are sound policies,” Roberts wrote in the court’s ruling, outlining that their decision resulted specifically from flaws in the way that the Trump administration went about trying to end the DACA program.
“We address only whether the agency complied with the procedural requirement that it provide a reasoned explanation for its action,” the ruling continues. “Here the agency failed to consider the conspicuous issues of whether to retain forbearance and what if anything to do about the hardship to DACA recipients.”
DACA opponents like Paxton aren’t planning to give up fighting the order based on today’s ruling. “We look forward to continuing litigating that issue in our case now pending in the Southern District of Texas,” he said.