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The court’s decision Thursday does not prevent the Trump administration from working to rescind the DACA program in the future, meaning the fate of the deportation reprieve could be decided by voters in the November general election.
The case traces back to 2012, when then-President Obama established DACA through executive action. Nearly 700,000 people are now enrolled in the program, which grants a renewable two-year deferral from deportation and makes applicants eligible for work permits, driver’s licenses and health insurance.Trump, who campaigned on a promise to end Obama’s “illegal executive amnesties,” announced plans in 2017 to rescind the program. The move was met with swift legal challenges, and federal lower court judges in three cases ruled against the Trump administration. Appearing before the Supreme Court last fall, the Trump administration argued that its decision to rescind DACA is not reviewable by courts. A majority of justices rejected that argument Thursday, but several of the court’s reliably conservative members embraced the view in a dissenting opinion. In his dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas argued that the Obama-era program was “unlawful from its inception,” and that the court should not have second-guessed the Trump administration’s decision to rescind it. “The Court could have made clear that the solution respondents seek must come from the Legislative Branch. Instead, the majority has decided to prolong DHS’ initial overreach by providing a stopgap measure of its own,” Thomas wrote. “In doing so, it has given the green light for future political battles to be fought in this Court rather than where they rightfully belong — the political branches,” added Thomas, whose dissent was joined by fellow conservative Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch.
The decision to preserve DACA marks the third time Roberts cast the deciding vote on a major Trump immigration policy, and is likely to further cement his image as the court’s new swing vote.
Roberts previously sided with the conservative justices to uphold the administration’s restrictions on inbound travel from several Muslim-majority countries. Last term he joined the liberal bloc to prevent the administration from adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census, based on similar legal grounds as the DACA decision.
In both the census and DACA cases, the Supreme Court’s decision was guided by a federal statute called the Administrative Procedure Act, which concerns how much decision-making power resides with federal agencies. The narrow issue before the court in DACA was whether the Trump administration’s repeal was legally justified or if it was “arbitrary and capricious,” and thus illegal under the act.
In finding that the administration violated the act, Roberts was joined by liberal Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan. Justice Sonia Sotomayor also signed onto the majority opinion, but said she would have left open the possibility of the DACA rescission being challenged on equal protection grounds.
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U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is warning that it is being hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic and that it will soon exhaust its funding and might be unable to meet its payroll without significant help from Congress — as the number of applications from immigrants dries up.“Given the unprecedented nature of the global pandemic, there is no historical data that can be used to project the scope and duration of COVID-19’s impact on USCIS’ revenue,” said the email to staff by Deputy Director for Policy Joseph Edlow, a copy of which was obtained by Fox News. “USCIS will exhaust its funding this summer, and without congressional intervention, we risk not being able to make payroll and will have to take drastic actions to keep the agency afloat,” he said. USCIS offices closed in March as part of the effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus, suspending in-person services at field offices and asylum offices. President Trump has also placed significant restrictions on green cards for those already in the country — which are usually handled by USCIS. Unlike other government agencies, USCIS is a fee-based agency, meaning it is primarily funded by the money coming from fees that immigrants pay to have their applications processed. But Edlow said that since the declaration of a national emergency, application and petition receipts “dropped to half their previous levels and with them, agency revenue that keeps our doors open.”Edlow said that, even with an already-planned hike in fees coming soon, USCIS is seeking $1.2 billion from Congress to address budget shortfalls for both fiscal year (FY) 2020 and the start of 2021. He said that such an ask would not add to the deficit, as it would add a 10 percent surcharge to application fees. “We will be working closely with Congress and urging them to take swift action so USCIS can continue to administer our nation’s lawful immigration system, safeguard the homeland, and protect the American people,” he wrote. When asked for comment by Fox News, a USCIS spokesperson said: “Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, USCIS has seen a dramatic decrease in revenue and is seeking a one-time emergency request for funding to ensure we can carry out our mission of administering our nation’s lawful immigration system, safeguarding its integrity, and protecting the American people. Importantly, this funding proposal protects American taxpayers by not adding to the deficit and requiring USCIS to pay the money back to the U.S. Treasury.” However, it is not clear if there is much appetite from Congress to provide such aid. A $3 trillion stimulus package passed by House Democrats on Friday — but which appears doomed in the Senate — does not include any relief for USCIS. A House Democratic aide said Congress is reviewing the USCIS bailout request. “The Administration has brought this request to Congress, and we are currently seeking more information about their proposal,” the aide told Fox News.