Supreme Court Blocks Trump Administration's Effort to End DACA

Author: David B. Weisenfeld, XpertHR Legal Editor

June 18, 2020

The Supreme Court has ruled 5-4 that the Trump administration may not end the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA protects an estimated 700,000 young, undocumented immigrants living and working in the US from deportation by providing renewable, two-year work permits.

The Trump administration has long viewed DACA as illegal, claiming it facilitates violations of immigration law by providing affirmative benefits like work authorizations and Social Security benefits. And it made terminating the program in 2017 a high priority despite objections in the business community.

But the Court held that the government's arguments were inadequate. Writing for the Court, Chief Justice John Roberts found the administration's actions in terminating DACA to be "arbitrary and capricious." The Chief Justice made clear the Court was not addressing whether DACA, or its rescission, were sound policies and left the door open for a future challenge. However, he said that the procedure the government followed in reversing course was lacking.

A lawyer for the DACA recipients, Theodore Olson, had told the justices during the arguments in the case, "The government's termination of DACA triggered abrupt, tangible, adverse consequences and substantial disruptions in the lives of 700,000 individuals, their families, employers, communities and Armed Forces."

The Court noted those reliance interests and found the government did not take them into account in its move to end the program.

In all, 143 employers, 66 healthcare organizations and three labor unions filed or joined briefs in support of the DACA program, including:

  • Apple;
  • AT&T;
  • Best Buy; and
  • Google.

The ruling marks the second Supreme Court setback this week for the administration. On Monday, the Court held that employers may not fire someone merely for being gay or transgender without violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

In dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that DACA was illegal from the start and that alone justified its termination.