June 18 (UPI) -- The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday ruled against a bid by the Trump administration to terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protects children of undocumented migrants in the United States.
The high court was split 5-4 on the ruling. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority that a 2017 decision by the Department of Homeland Security to end the program was arbitrary and capricious and illegal under the federal Administrative Procedure Act.
He wrote the administration's bid to end DACA "infringed on the equal protection guarantee of the Fifth Amendment's Due Process Clause," and agreed with a lower court finding that DHS failed to explain the rationale behind cutting the program.
The majority said DHS didn't first consider cutting work permits given DACA recipients without ending the program entirely -- and failed to recognize how important the program is to those in the program, called "Dreamers."
"The agency failed to consider the conspicuous issues of whether to retain forbearance and what if anything to do about the hardship to DACA recipients," Roberts wrote. "That dual failure raises doubts about whether the agency appreciated the scope of its discretion or exercised that discretion in a reasonable manner.
"The appropriate recourse is therefore to remand to DHS so that it may consider the problem anew."
Associate Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch voted to let the administration end the program. They criticized the ruling as "an effort to avoid a politically controversial but legally correct decision."
The decision is a significant defeat for one of President Donald Trump's signature issues.
"These horrible and politically charged decisions coming out of the Supreme Court are shotgun blasts into the face of people that are proud to call themselves Republicans or conservatives," Trump answered in a tweet. "We need more justices or we will lose our [Second] Amendment and everything else."
"Do you get the impression that the Supreme Court doesn't like me?" he added.
Supporters hailed the long-anticipated decision.
"Eight years ago this week, we protected young people who were raised as part of our American family from deportation," tweeted former President Barack Obama, who created the DACA program in 2012. "Today, I'm happy for them, their families, and all of us. We may look different and come from everywhere, but what makes us American are our shared ideals.
"And now to stand up for those ideals, we have to move forward and elect Joe Biden and a Democratic Congress that does its job, protects [Dreamers], and finally creates a system that's truly worthy of this nation of immigrants once and for all."
"Trump's decision to end DACA was one of the ugliest and cruelest decisions ever made by a president in modern history," Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders tweeted. "He lost. Congratulations to DREAMers and all who fought to make this enormous victory possible."
"Lady Liberty stands tall today," Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez said in a statement. "This is a stunning victory. A victory of humanity over hatred, of American values over Trump's immigrant-bashing scare tactics."
The DACA program was started to provide temporary relief from deportation for children brought to the United States by undocumented parents. It also allows them to work, especially in healthcare fields, where they are now needed to help fight the coronavirus pandemic, a supplemental brief filed by the Dreamers' attorneys in March said.
"Healthcare providers on the front lines of our nation's fight against COVID-19 rely significantly upon DACA recipients to perform essential work," they wrote, citing approximately 27,000 DACA working the in healthcare field as "nurses, dentists, pharmacists, physician assistants, home health aides, technicians and other staff."