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Supreme Court hands victory to DACA recipients, but fight isn't over 

click to enlarge In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court said Trump's decision to rescind DACA was illegal. - JEFF KUBINA VIA WIKIMEDIA
  • Jeff Kubina via Wikimedia
  • In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court said Trump's decision to rescind DACA was illegal.

In a win for immigration advocates across the country, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled June 18 that President Donald Trump's administration had unlawfully rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA.

"Today, the Supreme Court took the side of the American people and the majority of Coloradans, who overwhelmingly support the DACA program, and who also overwhelmingly believe DACA recipients should have a way to earn citizenship," Cristian Solano-Córdova, a spokesperson for the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition (CIRC), said during a virtual news conference June 18.

There are more than 1,400 DACA recipients in Colorado, and they have 28,000 family members, Solano-Córdova noted. These undocumented immigrants received temporary protection from deportation through DACA after proving they had come to the U.S. as children and meeting other qualifications.

The Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling means that the Department of Homeland Security must continue processing renewals for DACA recipients — which are required every two years — but it's unclear whether the decision will mean that people who've never had DACA status will be allowed to apply for the temporary protection.

The Supreme Court's majority opinion, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, also means that "the Trump administration can end the program," immigration attorney Christina Uribe Reyes said during CIRC's virtual news conference.

"They just have to follow the rules when they do so," Reyes explained. "So this isn't a decision where [the Supreme Court] said that DACA is necessarily legal."

In 2012, President Barack Obama's then-Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program. The program provides temporary protection from deportation for so-called "Dreamers."

People who applied to the program were required to have come to the U.S. before turning 16, lived in the U.S. continuously since at least June 2007, and meet other eligibility guidelines.

In September 2017, President Donald Trump’s administration sought to rescind DACA, and the Department of Homeland Security stopped processing initial applications to the program.

"I do not favor punishing children, most of whom are now adults, for the actions of their parents," Trump wrote in a formal announcement from the White House at the time. "But we must also recognize that we are nation of opportunity because we are a nation of laws."

By creating DACA, Trump claimed, Obama's administration had been "making an end-run around Congress and violating the core tenets that sustain our Republic."

Since Trump's attempt to end the program, lower court decisions have required the Department of Homeland Security to resume processing DACA renewals, which are needed every two years and cost hundreds of dollars.

In his dissenting opinion, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas argued that regardless of the implications of rescinding DACA, Trump's 2017 move should have passed legal muster.

"Today’s decision must be recognized for what it is: an effort to avoid a politically controversial but legally correct decision," Thomas said. "The Court could have made clear that the solution respondents seek must come from the Legislative Branch."

To provide permanent protection and a path to citizenship for young people illegally brought to the U.S. as children, Congress will need to pass legislation — which lawmakers have tried and failed to do for the past 19 years.

The first version of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM Act) was introduced in 2001, and from the name of that bill the term "Dreamers" (now often used to describe DACA recipients) was coined to describe people who were brought to the country as children, without documentation.

The DREAM Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for Dreamers, has been introduced more than 10 times in different forms. Though each bill has enjoyed some bipartisan support, none have passed Congress.

"Although DACA continues today, the program is still in jeopardy," Hans Van de Weerd, vice president of resettlement, asylum, and integration for the International Rescue Committee, said in a statement from the humanitarian aid organization. "A permanent solution is needed to ensure security and stability for the more than 825,000 DACA recipients and millions of undocumented immigrants who call this country home."

Van de Weerd urged the U.S. Senate to pass the bipartisan American Dream and Promise Act (the latest iteration of the DREAM Act), which has already passed the House.

"Dreamers came here as children and have known no country but America," Sen. Michael Bennet, a Democrat from Colorado, said in a statement. "They grew up in our neighborhoods, played on our sports teams, and served on our student governments. They showed up to school, found jobs, and pay taxes. They are woven into the American fabric."

Bennet was among 172 current and former members of Congress who signed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court case, urging them to rule in support of DACA. Democratic Reps. Jason Crow, Diana DeGette and Joe Neguse also signed the brief.

"The Trump administration still has authority to rescind DACA again," Eriko Tsogo, the creative director for the Mongolian Culture and Heritage Center of Colorado and a DACA recipient, said during CIRC's news conference.

"In order for this decision to stand," Tsogo said, "the American people have a choice to make this November. It's up to the American people to do their part to protect immigrants like myself and youth from deportation."

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