Trump Says He Is Seeking Legal Solution on DACA Following Supreme Court Ruling

June 18, 2020 Updated: June 18, 2020

President Donald Trump decried the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to reject his bid to end an Obama-era program that provided legal protections and work authorizations to illegal immigrants who were brought into the United States as children, saying they have to “start this process all over again” for a legal solution.

On Thursday morning, the Supreme Court ruled that the administration had acted in an “arbitrary and capricious” way when it decided to cancel the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that protected hundreds of thousands of these so-called “dreamers.” Many of these recipients, who have an average age of 24 years old, currently live and work in the United States after having grown up in the country.

Shortly after the ruling was issued, Trump responded in a statement on Twitter by characterizing the top court’s recent decisions as “horrible” and “politically charged.”

“These horrible & politically charged decisions coming out of the Supreme Court are shotgun blasts into the face of people that are proud to call themselves Republicans or Conservatives. We need more Justices or we will lose our 2nd. Amendment & everything else. Vote Trump 2020,” the president wrote.

In a later post, Trump said the top court needed “new justices” following unfavorable decisions in cases relating to a number of issues related to DACA, sanctuary cities, and the census.

“If the Radical Left Democrats assume power, your Second Amendment, Right to Life, Secure Borders, and Religious Liberty, among many other things, are OVER and GONE!” he wrote.

He said that he will seek a “legal solution on DACA, not a political one” that is consistent with the rule of law.

“The DACA decision, while a highly political one, and seemingly not based on the law, gives the President of the United States far more power than EVER anticipated. Nevertheless, I will only act in the best interests of the United States of America!” he said.

The Supreme Court ruling represents a setback for the Trump administration and for the president, who had made illegal immigration a priority in his 2016 election campaign.

The DACA program was created by a 2012 executive order signed by former President Barrack Obama. The program temporarily shields these young unauthorized immigrants from deportation and provides them with benefits such as work authorization and eligibility for a driver’s license and health insurance.

The order was made after failed negotiations on immigration reform at Capitol Hill.

In 2012, the Pew Research Center estimated 1.7 million of the 4.4 million illegal immigrants aged 30 and under would be eligible for the DACA program. At the time when the Trump administration announced to phase out the program in September 2017, there were about 700,000 active DACA recipients.

The decision to end the program was met with fierce opposition. Multiple federal courts ruled against Trump’s move to end DACA, with some federal judges ruling that Trump could not terminate the program and ordering U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to continue accepting and adjudicating on DACA renewal applications.

DACA defenders say that the recipients should not be faulted for their parents’ decision to violate U.S. immigration laws to bring them into the country. They argue that there would be a number of social and economic costs should the program end. They say many of these recipients have contributed to the U.S. economy and removing the program would threaten the nation’s future workforce and impose massive costs to employers who currently employ these people. Proponents have also dressed up the program as a routine exercise of prosecutorial discretion in order to justify its legality.

For DACA opponents, the case represents a gross overreach of executive authority and a usurpation of Congress’s lawmaking powers. They have argued that Obama had exercised unlawful executive authority to create the program and that only Congress can enact such a policy, something Obama appeared to have conceded at the time.

Opponents have also taken issue with the fact that DACA grants benefits to these recipients ahead of other immigrants who are toiling through legal channels to gain immigration and naturalization in the United States.

The Trump administration has echoed these arguments, calling DACA unlawful and an unconstitutional exercise of authority by the executive branch. The president has previously said that the winding down of DACA would be a gradual process, which would provide Congress a “window of opportunity” to act on the issue.

The Supreme Court case centered around arguments of whether the Trump administration’s rescission of the program in 2017 was subject to judicial review and whether that decision was “arbitrary and capricious” under the federal law known as the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).

In the majority decision (pdf) on Thursday, the justices ruled 5-4 that the administration’s decision was reviewable under the APA. The court also held that the decision was “arbitrary and capricious” under the law.

“The dispute before the Court is not whether [the Department of Homeland Security] may rescind DACA. All parties agree that it may. The dispute is instead primarily about the procedure the agency followed in doing so,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote in the majority opinion. He was joined by, in full or in part, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan.

Roberts said that the court’s ruling did not “decide whether DACA or its rescission are sound policies” but rather address “only whether the agency complied with the procedural requirement that it provide a reasoned explanation for its action.”

“Here the agency failed to consider the conspicuous issues of whether to retain forbearance and what if anything to do about the hardship to DACA recipients,” Roberts wrote. “That dual failure raises doubts about whether the agency appreciated the scope of its discretion or exercised that discretion in a reasonable manner. The appropriate recourse is therefore to remand to DHS so that it may consider the problem anew.”

Obama applauded the Supreme Court decision. “Eight years ago this week, we protected young people who were raised as part of our American family from deportation. Today, I’m happy for them, their families, and all of us. We may look different and come from everywhere, but what makes us American are our shared ideals and now to stand up for those ideals,” he wrote in a Twitter post.

In a dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch, argued that DACA was illegal from its inception, which makes it “anything but a standard administrative law case.” He said that as long as DHS’s determination that the illegality is sound, the court’s review should be concluded.

“Today’s decision must be recognized for what it is: an effort to avoid a politically controversial but legally correct decision,” Clarence wrote. “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.”

Meanwhile, Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote a separate opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part because he did not agree with the court’s treatment of former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s 2018 memo, which defended the move to revoke DACA.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a press conference on Thursday that she would like to see Congress pass the American Dream and Promise Act of 2019, also known as the Dream Act, as a next step for a more permanent solution for DACA. The bill, which is pending in the Senate, was passed in the House last June and provides legal protections to DACA recipients, Temporary Protected Status, and Deferred Enforced Departure holders.

Pelosi also added that she hopes Congress would come together “to talk about … comprehensive immigration reform,” when asked about a deal on DACA.

“What we’d really like, though, is to come together to talk about the comprehensive immigration reform that goes even well beyond the legislation I just talked about,” she said.

Trump added in a subsequent Twitter post that he will be releasing a new list of conservative Supreme Court Justice nominees by Sept. 1, noting that many may already be on the list.

“If given the opportunity, I will only choose from this list, as in the past, a Conservative Supreme Court Justice Based on decisions being rendered now, this list is more important than ever before (Second Amendment, Right to Life, Religous Liberty, etc.)–VOTE 2020!” he wrote.

Trump and Senate Republicans have made significant efforts to change the composition of the judiciary, by nominating and confirming younger conservative judges, in order to shape the long-term direction of the country. This move has drawn criticism from progressives. Since taking office, the Senate has confirmed 198 federal judges nominated by Trump, including 51 appellate judges, and two Supreme Court justices.

Follow Janita on Twitter: @janitakan