Divided Supreme Court appears to favor Trump plan to end DACA

By Nicholas Sakelaris & Danielle Haynes
Divided Supreme Court appears to favor Trump plan to end DACA
Pro-immigration demonstrators protest Tuesday at the U.S. Supreme Court, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Photo by Mike Theiler/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 12 (UPI) -- The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday appeared divided along party lines on President Donald Trump's efforts to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, indicating a potential end to the immigration system.

Justices heard the first arguments in the case Tuesday. Two key questions dominated the arguments -- about whether the court can second-guess the president's effort to end DACA and whether he has the authority to do so.


Conservative Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh appeared to side firmly with Trump -- indicating he has sound legal ground for eliminating the Obama-era program, which allows migrants taken to the United States as children to stay.

Conservative Chief Justice John Roberts and more liberal Associate Justice Stephen Breyer seemed unsure of the court's authority on the question.

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"I'm saying honestly, I'm struggling," Breyer said.

Roberts said a mass deportation resulting from the end of the program is unlikely because the government doesn't have the resources to do it.


Pro-DACA attorney Theodore Olson argued Trump's original justification to phase out the program was that it was illegal. He added that the threat of repealing the system will disrupt the lives of hundreds of thousands of migrants who rely on it to remain in the United States.

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Solicitor General Noel Francisco argued the program should end regardless of its legality, and the Homeland Security Department disagreed with providing immunity against deportation laws.

"We own this," Francisco said.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, appointed by President Barack Obama, said Trump has wavered on the issue, noting that he once said "Dreamers" were "safe under him" -- only later to change position and give them six months to leave.

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Trump has tried to wind down DACA, but lower federal courts have kept him from doing so. Trump campaigned on a promise to end Obama's "illegal executive amnesties."

More than 90 percent of DACA recipients are employed and 45 percent are in school, a government study found, and proponents argue many become contributing members of American society -- physicians, attorneys, engineers and military officers.

"We represent employers of all sizes in making the case to uphold DACA," Microsoft President Brad Smith wrote Friday in a blog post supporting the program, also saying "serious harm" will be done if the program ends. Microsoft is among more than 140 companies that support DACA.


Trump said last year he was willing to keep the DACA program if Congress took the steps needed to fix it. Federal courts ultimately issued an injunction that nullified the administration's deadline.

As the high court weighed the merits of the case Tuesday, congressional Democrats held a news conference calling on Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky to pass the DREAM Act, which would make DACA law.

Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., said he met with Trump at the White House on the issue, and said the president said he wanted to "treat these young people with love."

"When you started on a pathway that put all these young people at risk, that's not love," Menendez said. "It's just fundamentally wrong what the administration is doing. Let's see who stands for the dream and who wants to snuff it out."

Most recently, Trump said he wants a "bipartisan deal" that benefits everyone.


In a brief filed with the court, the Trump administration said the repeal of DACA was an administrative procedure that is not subject to judicial review -- and argued that President Barack Obama's actions to start the program in 2012 were unlawful. In 2017, then-U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the Department of Homeland Security was "legally required" to end DACA.

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