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Trump bid toe DACA puts Supreme Court back in political fray

Greg Stohr, Bloomberg News on

Published in News & Features

Defenders of DACA say it's simply a broad exercise of the president's accepted power to set priorities in deciding who should be deported. Obama created the program in 2012, bypassing Congress after legislation known as the Dream Act had stalled. The Dream Act would have created a path to legal status for young undocumented immigrants.

DACA made an estimated 1.7 million young people eligible for the program, which offers successful applicants a renewable two-year shield from deportation and the right to apply for work permits.

"It seemed to me that this was a group of people who really didn't deserve living under fear of deportation and having the weight of the federal government on their backs," said Janet Napolitano, who proposed the DACA program as Obama's Homeland Security secretary. "It was also a group of young people who need the ability to work."

Napolitano is now president of the University of California, which is among the challengers to Trump's rescission. The university has at least 1,700 DACA recipients among its undergraduate population, she said.

More than 660,000 people had active DACA status as of June 30, and they had an average age of 251/2 , according to government data. A 2017 study found that 91% of DACA recipients were employed, and 45% were enrolled in school. They arrived in the U.S. at an average age of 61/2, and the vast majority were born in Mexico.

A ruling in the Trump administration's favor wouldn't necessarily mean all, or even any, of those people would be deported. Before the courts intervened, the administration was trying to wind down the program gradually, barring people from renewing their status after a specified date but not challenging their current rights.

It's not clear that Trump is especially eager to start deporting DACA recipients. He suggested last month that his goal was to gain leverage in negotiations with lawmakers.

If the court lets DACA be rescinded, "the Republicans and Democrats will have a DEAL to let them stay in our Country," Trump tweeted. "It would actually benefit DACA and be done the right way!"


A loss for Trump at the Supreme Court could leave room for him to try again to rescind DACA using a different explanation, though he might be hard-pressed to do so before the 2020 election.

No matter which side prevails, Congress needs to step in and provide permanent protection, said Christopher Eisgruber, the president of Princeton University, which sued the Trump administration in 2017.

"The only path that gives security to the Dreamers is a path that gives them a road to citizenship," Eisgruber said. "And that needs to come from Congress."

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