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Conservative Supreme Court Justices Moving Towards DACA Shutdown

— November 13, 2019

Two of the court’s Trump-appointed justices are likely to back the president’s order closing down the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

The Supreme Court’s conservative majority may be inclined toward President Donald Trump and his wish to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which protects hundreds of thousands of young migrants from deportation.

According to Reuters, the court’s ideological split is marked. While the court’s conservative justices signaled support for Trump’s initiative, they were loudly opposed by their liberal colleagues.

DACA, notes Reuters, now shields about 660,000 immigrants from deportation. To qualify for protection under the program, one must’ve arrived illegally to the United States only as a minor, have a clean criminal record, and have either served in the U.S. armed forces or attained a certain level of education.

At least in its intent, DACA assists young people who may not have come to the United States willfully, perhaps pulled across the border by parents or other relatives.

Less than a year into his presidency, Trump—after exhausting months of mixed signals—issued an executive order rescinding DACA. Despite state machinery moving to meet his order, a federal court issued an injunction instructing the government to continue processing DACA applications and residency certificate renewals.

Now, though, the Supreme Court Trump’s stacked with right-wing justices is poised to reaffirm the president’s order. Reuters says that the court’s 5-4 conservative majority “includes two Trump appointees – Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh – who both indicated support for the president’s action.”

Judge Brett Kavanaugh; image by U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
Judge Brett Kavanaugh is, perhaps not surprisingly, signaling early support for Trump’s 2017 order to shut down DACA; image by U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

While the conservative wing of the bench has questioned whether courts have the power to review Trump’s actions on immigration, liberals have emphasized the devastation DACA’s recession might bring. Thousands of individuals, businesses and organizations rely on persons under the purview of the program—something the liberal minority says the administration may not have considered when Trump made a “choice to destroy lives.”

Reuters adds that Trump, legally, may have an obligation to supply adequate rationale for upturning extant immigration policy.

Kavanaugh tried to counter liberals’ argument, though he did so neither effectively nor eloquently.

“I mean, this is a considered decision,” Kavanaugh said. “We all agree on that.”

Gorsuch, too, made vocal his sympathy, saying a choice to reject the administration’s rationale on DACA would simply allow Trump to change his reasoning and restart the process.

“What good would another five years of litigation over the adequacy of that explanation serve?” Gorsuch asked.

Newsweek describes tensions in the court as running high, with justices frequently interrupting Solicitor General Noel Francisco and attempting to speak over another. While the interruptions were punctuated by apologies, it was difficult for anyone on the bench or floor to get more than a few words into any point.

Whether justices support the president or not, some Democratic officials have said yanking DACA could cost Trump the next election. Geoff Garin, a Democratic pollster, told The New York Times that killing DACA solidified some Americans’ hostility to the president’s immigration policy.

“We know from polling that Americans overwhelmingly support DACA,” Garin said. “They oppose Trump’s efforts to terminate DACA. It reinforces all the other negatives that Trump has established.”


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