U.S. Supreme Court Rebuffs Trump, Won't Hear Immigration AppealBy
Justices still could consider case after appeals court rules
Congress has been unable to agree on protection for dreamers
The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a Trump administration appeal aimed at ending deportation protections for young undocumented immigrants, steering clear for now of the debate over the fate of hundreds of thousands of people.
The justices, without published dissent, turned away the administration’s appeal of a ruling that has kept the Obama-era program in place. The rejection buys time for the so-called dreamers even as Congress has been unable to agree on legislation to give them permanent protection. The Senate earlier this month blocked three proposals that would have shielded the dreamers.
The administration was asking the Supreme Court to take the unusual step of bypassing an appeals court and granting fast-track review of a federal trial judge’s decision. The court’s rebuff leaves open the possibility that the justices could consider the case later, after a San Francisco-based federal appeals court hears it.
"It is assumed that the Court of Appeals will proceed expeditiously to decide this case," the Supreme Court said in its two-sentence order.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program "is clearly unlawful," White House spokesman Raj Shah said in a statement. "We look forward to having this case expeditiously heard by the appeals court and, if necessary, the Supreme Court, where we fully expect to prevail,” he said.
DACA, begun under President Barack Obama, protects undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children. Applicants are shielded from deportation and allowed to apply for work permits. The first group of DACA recipients had been set to lose their protected status in March before U.S. District Judge William H. Alsup’s Jan. 9 order.
The Trump administration appeal argued that the judge’s order “requires the government to sanction indefinitely an ongoing violation of federal law being committed by nearly 700,000 aliens.” The administration resumed accepting DACA renewal applications after the order.
Congress is at an impasse over legislation to protect the dreamers, as President Donald Trump and many Republicans insist that it must be combined with strict new limits on legal immigration. Even though the judge’s order means the prior March deadline isn’t in force, House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin said this month, "we want to operate on deadlines. We clearly need to address this issue in March."
‘Flawed Legal Premise’
Alsup said the Department of Homeland Security based its decision to end the program on the "flawed legal premise" that Obama lacked the authority to set it up in the first place.
In issuing his temporary order, which extends the protection while the lawsuit goes forward, Alsup said the "public interest" would be served by keeping the program in place. The judge pointed to Trump tweets that suggested he actually supported DACA. A September tweet read: "Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military? Really! . . . ."
Alsup wrote: "We seem to be in the unusual position wherein the ultimate authority over the agency, the chief executive, publicly favors the very program the agency has ended."
States led by California are among those challenging the Trump administration’s bid to end DACA. They urged the Supreme Court to reject the government appeal, saying the judge’s order was warranted to avert "irreversible, life-altering consequences," possibly including deportation, for hundreds of thousands of people.
The administration contended that its legal conclusion about DACA was reasonable in light of a federal appeals court decision that struck down a separate Obama program designed to shield a larger group of unauthorized immigrants. The Supreme Court later split 4-4 on that program, effectively killing it.
The Homeland Security Department "opted to wind down DACA after reasonably concluding that the policy was likely to be struck down by courts and indeed was unlawful," the administration argued in the appeal.
The Supreme Court rarely grants requests to bypass the appeals court stage. High-profile precedents include fights over President Richard Nixon’s tape recordings and President Harry Truman’s effort to seize the nation’s steel mills.
Although the administration urged immediate Supreme Court review, it didn’t take the conventional step of asking the justices to block Alsup’s order while the legal fight moves forward.
The case is U.S. Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California, 17-1003.
— With assistance by Margaret Talev