SCOTUS decision on DACA
Today, June 18, 2020, the Supreme Court of the United States published its decision against the administration in its quest to terminate DACA and return the programa to what it was when it was enacted in 2012. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals is a temporary benefit based on an executive order issued in 2012 by then President Obama. The order granted two years deferred action to all those under 31 years of age by August 15, 2012 that have arrived to the US under the age of 16 prior to June 15, 2007 (making their case low priority for enforcement) and, along with that, employment authorization. The beneficiaries also had to show that they have continuously resided in the US since arrival, had a clean criminal record, had graduated from high school, had obtained a GED, or were enrolled in school and working toward either one. Applicants also had to be over 15 years old, and the benefit was discretionary and individual, not allowing this benefit to be shared with family members. The benefit was contingent on the applicant maintaining a clean criminal record and had to be renewed every two years at a cost of $495 each time it was renewed. About 700k people benefited from this program and have become an intricate part of our society. The current COVID-19 crisis has shown that many DACA beneficiaries are considered “essential workers,” laboring in diverse fields from doctors, nurses, and EMTs, to food production and supply workers.
One of the campaign promises of the current administration was to repeal DACA, which, since DACA is based on a presidential executive order, he would have the authority to do. The official repeal of DACA came in September 2017. That decision was immediately challenged in different courts by different groups. An injunction was placed, and, even though no new applications were to be accepted, those that already had DACA could continue renewing the benefit every two years as it was originally established. The case navigated all the way to the SCOTUS, and today they issued a decision against the administration. In a nutshell, the court established in its majority opinion that the repeal of DACA was not sustainable. The decision is not based on constitutional grounds, nor does it deny the authority of the administration to rescind the order. The decision of the court is strictly based on procedural issues. The problem did not lie in what was done, but the manner in which it was done.
What does this mean going forward? The administration could decide to go ahead and start again its attempt to rescind the program and try to follow the appropriate procedure so it will hold up in court, if challenged.
For the beneficiaries of DACA, things remain the same. Nothing has changed with the program from today’s decision. However, new, initial DACA applications can be filed but the scope of the program has not changed. However, those 700k that are protected under DACA will continue to be so, as long as they meet the requirements. Therefore, they are eligible to continue applying for renewals every two years as they have been doing and new eligible applicants can file now for the first time.
Today is a happy day for DACA recipients, advocates, and all people of good will. However, DACA remains a very limited and vulnerable benefit. Much more is needed and it can only come via legislation. Therefore, the next step to support DACA beneficiaries and others that don’t even have that benefit is something that they cannot do by themselves. It falls on us, citizens of the United States, to demand action from Congress and to exercise our right to vote in the upcoming elections. But today, today we celebrate.