U.S. Supreme Court justices on Tuesday appeared to be inclined to let President Donald Trump terminate the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration program, known as DACA, that shields hundreds of thousands of immigrants from deportation and also allows them to get work permits.
The judges heard arguments on Tuesday and at least five of the court’s conservatives are backing the Trump administration, reports said. The Supreme Court hasn’t yet ruled on the case.
Chief Justice John Roberts indicated that he saw DACA as illegal when it was implemented by President Obama, saying it covers more people than prior deferred deportation programs, according to Bloomberg News. The other conservative justices suggested that they would not second-guess the Trump administration’s reasoning and thought its explanations were sufficient, the New York Times reported.
Trump’s Solicitor General Noel Francisco called on the justices to throw out rulings from lower courts to allow the White House to wind down the DACA program, according to the transcript. He also claimed that the program exceeded the power of the president and is, therefore, illegal.
The “Department of Homeland Security reasonably determined that it no longer wished to retain the DACA policy based on its belief that the policy was illegal, its serious doubts about its illegality, and its general opposition to broad non-enforcement policies,” he said.
In 2017, President Donald Trump said that DACA should be undone, and he repeated his criticisms of the program on Tuesday.
“Many of the people in DACA, no longer very young, are far from ‘angels.’ Some are very tough, hardened criminals. President Obama said he had no legal right to sign order, but would anyway. If Supreme Court remedies with overturn, a deal will be made with Dems for them to stay!” he wrote on Twitter.
The court ruling will affect so-called “DREAMers” who depend on the program, which was created via executive action by former President Barack Obama. The DREAMers were brought into the United States illegally as children.
The move reportedly will affect about 700,000 immigrants, mainly from Mexico and Central America.
Ken Cuccinelli, the Trump administration’s acting director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency, told Reuters that DACA is “a de facto amnesty program for hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens.”
“If Congress wants to shield these aliens from deportation and provide them a legal status, that is its prerogative,” Cuccinelli explained. “In the meantime, DHS (the U.S. Department of Homeland Security) is a law-enforcement agency and nothing should keep it from enforcing the law.”
Trump previously attempted to rescind the program just months after he took office, but the lower courts blocked his action, leading to the current Supreme Court battle. Those courts said that Trump’s move to rescind DACA was possibly “arbitrary and capricious” and violated a U.S. law known as the Administrative Procedure Act.
In 2017, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that the Trump administration would be winding down the program, saying that the president didn’t have the authority to suspend deportations.
At the time, the White House asked why so few politicians had “any compassion for the millions of Americans victimized” by the immigration system. “Before we ask what is fair to illegal immigrants, we must also ask what is fair to American families, students, taxpayers, and job seekers,” Trump said in the statement.
He then called on Congress to “advance responsible immigration reform.”
The program allows eligible immigrants to get renewable two-year work permits and remains in effect for those who are already enrolled. The Trump administration has refused to hand out new applications.
The “DREAMers” moniker was based on the name of a bipartisan bill that was never passed called the DREAM (Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors) Act, which would have granted them legal status.
The Supreme Court cases are Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California, No. 18-587; Donald Trump v. National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, No. 18-588; and Kevin McAleenan v. Martin Jonathan Batalla Vidal, No. 18-589.
Reuters contributed to this report.