Jan. 23 (UPI) -- The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to quickly hear the Trump administration's appeal of a federal court's order that keeps in place protections for young adults brought to the United States unlawfully.
In a two-sentence order, the nine justices said briefs from both sides must be filed by Feb. 2 in the case involving the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program established by President Barack Obama in 2012 but rescinded by Donald Trump in September.
The court likely will consider the Department of Homeland Securiy's appeal at its Feb. 16 conference, USA Today reported. If the justices decide to take up the case, arguments could be heard in the spring.
The Justice Department, which is representing DHS, opposes a Jan. 9 decision by U.S. District Judge William Alsup in San Francisco that allows 690,000 young adults brought to the United States illegally by their parents to file applications to renew their status under the Obama-era program.
Normally, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit would next appeal the decision. But it is predominately a liberal court that has ruled consistently against the administration on immigration issues, including travel bans.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions called the decision to go directly to the Supreme Court a "rare step."
The Supreme Court, in its order, agreed it could hear the case before a ruling by the lower court.
During the appeals, the Justice Department didn't ask either court to block the ruling. This allows DACA beneficiaries to submit renewal applications for protection from deportation.
"The new administration didn't terminate DACA on policy grounds," Alsup wrote in the opinion. "It terminated DACA over a point of law, a pithy conclusion that the agency had exceeded its statutory and constitutional authority. An important question now presented is whether that conclusion was a mistake of law."
In a Sept. 5 memo from then-acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke, the agency said it lacked authority to implement DACA because it was an executive order.
The suit was filed by Regents of the University of California system and its president, Janet Napolitano, who was Homeland Security secretary under Obama.
Trump has given Congress until March 5 to come up with a policy on the program.
Last Friday, Senate Democrats opted to not sign a spending bill through Feb. 16 because it doesn't address DACA. On Monday, with the government shut down, Democrats relented and passed a spending bill through Feb. 8 that also doesn't address DACA. But Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised immigration issues would be addressed at that time or in separate legislation.