• The court ruled 5-4 the Department of Homeland Security failed to follow federal law in trying to end the program
  • DACA protects as many as 800,000 U.S. residents who were brought to the United States as young children and many have no memory of their native countries
  • President Trump has made immigration a hallmark of his administration, trying to end all illegal immigration and cutting legal immigration drastically

A divided U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday rejected President Trump’s attempt to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program – DACA -- calling it “arbitrary and capricious.” The program protects as many as 800,000 immigrants – so-called Dreamers -- who arrived in the United States as children without proper documentation.

Trump has made immigration a hallmark of his administration, cutting legal immigration drastically and working to keep undocumented immigrants out of the country by building a wall along the border with Mexico and forcing asylum seekers to stay in Mexico while their cases are considered. At the start of his campaign in 2015, he called undocumented immigrants from Mexico “rapists” and drug dealers.

The high court ruled 5-4 in an opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts that the court was not ruling on whether DACA is sound policy but, rather, was rejecting the way the Department of Homeland Security went about trying to end it after Attorney General William Barr declared the program illegal.

Trump rejected the Supreme Court decision, calling it “horrible and politically charged” and saying it was based on justices’ dislike for him. He likened the decision to a shotgun blast "into the face of people that are proud to call themselves Republicans or Conservatives."

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden hailed the decision pledged to make DACA permanent if he is elected.

"If Trump attempts to repeal DACA again — an unconscionable action, particularly during this unprecedented public health crisis — he will be responsible for upending the lives of hundreds of thousands of young people and bringing harm to families and communities all across the country," Biden said in a press release.

The justices said the administration violated laws governing federal agencies. Only Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the effort to end the program was motivated by the intent to discriminate against Latinos.

“But nothing about that determination foreclosed or even addressed the options of retaining forbearance or accommodating particular reliance interests. Acting Secretary [Elaine] Duke should have considered those matters but did not. That failure was arbitrary and capricious in violation of the APA [Administrative Procedure Act],” Roberts wrote.

He said the department is free to try to end the program again.

Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch joined in a dissent that said DACA was illegal from the moment it was created, and in a separate dissent, Justice Brett Kavanaugh said the administration acted properly in ending the program.

DACA allows Dreamers, many of whom have no memory of their native countries, to obtain work permits and attend school without fear of deportation. Permits are renewed every two years.

“We’ll keep living our lives in the meantime,” Cesar Espinosa, a DACA recipient who leads the Houston immigration advocacy group FIEL, told the Associated Press. “We’re going to continue to work, continue to advocate.”

The decision was one of several major cases still pending before the current term ends June 30. Still outstanding is whether Trump will be required to release his income tax returns.

(18-587 Department of Homeland Security et al v. Regents of the University of California et al)