202006.21
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U.S. Supreme Court Rules for DACA Program’s Dreamers

The U.S. Supreme Court on June 18 rejected the Trump administration’s efforts to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, handing a major victory to nearly 700,000 undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children.

Under the Obama-era program, qualified individuals, so-called “Dreamers,” were given temporary legal status, allowing them to live and work in the U.S. without fear of deportation, if they maintained U.S. residency and met education or military service requirements and passed a background check. The program provides for renewable two-year deferrals from deportation.

In 2017, the Trump administration sought to dismantle DACA. The move was met with legal challenges, and federal lower court judges in three cases ruled against the administration before the Supreme Court took up the matter.

In its 5-4 ruling, written by Chief Justice John Roberts and joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor, the Supreme Court rejected the manner by which the Trump administration tried to do away with the program, finding that the administration violated the Administrative Procedures Act, which governs how federal agencies make decisions.

“We do not decide whether DACA or its rescission are sound policies,” Roberts wrote. “The wisdom of those decisions is none of our concern. Here we address only whether the Administration complied with the procedural requirements in the law that insist on ‘a reasoned explanation for its action.’”

Since the Supreme Court’s ruling is about procedure only, it does not prevent the Trump administration (or other administrations) from working to rescind the program in the future. Congress also has the power to legislatively address the fate of DACA recipients, who are not provided a path to citizenship under the program.

Impact of DACA

Under DACA, young immigrants emerged from the shadows. They pursued higher education and were able to obtain work permits, driver’s licenses, and health insurance. DACA recipients have bought homes, married U.S. citizens, and reportedly have 200,000 children who are U.S. citizens. They reportedly pay $60 billion in U.S. taxes each year.

There are an estimated 5,889 DACA recipients in Pennsylvania.

At a time when healthcare workers are needed to fight COVID-19, The Center for American Progress (CAP), a liberal-leaning public policy research organization, reports that 29,000 U.S. frontline healthcare workers are DACA recipients. They work in a wide range of jobs including as home health aides, paramedics, pharmacy technicians, nurses, and physicians, among other roles. According to CAP, another 12,700 DACA recipients work in critical roles in the healthcare industry, such as custodians, food preparers, and management or administrators ― including 4,100 DACA recipients working in hospitals and 1,700 in residential facilities such as nursing homes.

CAP also reports that an estimated 14,900 DACA recipients work in education and that 142,100 work in food-related occupations across the country. Many of the food-related occupations have been impacted in some manner by COVID-19.

Conclusion

While the Supreme Court’s decision was met with joy and relief by the Dreamers, their emotions must be tempered by the knowledge that their future in the U.S. still remains uncertain.