Supreme Court rejects Trump administration’s DACA appeal

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Update 02/28/18: This article has been updated to reflect information from Shiori Akimoto, DACA coordinator at the East Bay Sanctuary Covenant.

East Bay Sanctuary Covenant refugee rights advocate Lily Woo is applying for her third Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival, or DACA, renewal, which will protect her from deportation for another two years. She is able to do so, at least for now, because of the Supreme Court’s decision to reject the Trump administration’s appeal of a lower court ruling regarding DACA on Monday.

The Trump administration ended the DACA program in September 2017, with Attorney General Jeff Sessions calling it a “unilateral executive amnesty.” In the months since, the decision has faced a number of legal challenges, including a lawsuit from the UC system.

East Bay Sanctuary Covenant DACA coordinator Shiori Akimoto said that though people have continuously challenged the Trump administration’s decision to rescind DACA, not many people have questioned the administration’s authority to do so.

“If another president comes in and wants to terminate program, the judge from New York seems to be saying that you have the power to do so,” Akimoto said. “But you have to follow the procedure that’s described under federal law when you’re taking these steps to terminate a program that has been in place for several years.”

Two judges have since struck down the Trump administration’s actions, including U.S. District Judge William H. Alsup, who in January 2018 ruled in the UC lawsuit that the Trump administration’s actions were “capricious.” Alsup issued a nationwide injunction to maintain key components of DACA, including a provision that allows those enrolled in the program to renew their protected status.

The Trump administration appealed the ruling to the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco and took the unusual step of asking the Supreme Court to review the case. The Supreme Court declined to do so Monday, saying that it expected the appeals court to make a decision soon.

“We are pleased the Supreme Court has denied the government’s petition,” UC said in a statement. “It was inappropriate for the Trump administration to short circuit standard appellate procedure and attempt to skip the U.S. Court of Appeals — a precipitous approach that echoes the government’s procedurally improper rescission of DACA at the heart of this case.”

In ending DACA, the Trump administration allowed a six-month lag period before phasing out the program. If not for Alsup’s ruling, DACA would have expired March 5.

Though the Supreme Court’s ruling temporarily protects current DACA recipients from deportation by allowing the lower court ruling to stand, it also reduces the amount of pressure on Congress to find a more permanent legislative solution.

“Dreamers (are) just being used as a bargaining chip,” Woo said. “A lot of bipartisan acts are, ‘We’ll give people who currently have DACA a pathway to citizenship, but we’ll only do that if we get more money to build the wall.’ They’re basically asking immigrant communities to sell one another out.”

The UC will finish case briefings by May 1, but the date for oral arguments has yet to be set by the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, according to UC spokesperson Stephanie Beechem.

“Now that the administration’s extraordinary maneuver has been rightfully rejected, we look forward to defending U.S. District Judge Alsup’s injunction in the Court of Appeals,” UC said in a statement.

Contact Katherine Yen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @k_yen14.