Some Republicans, like President Donald Trump and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, appear to have forgotten that the judiciary is an independent branch of government.
Late last week, the U.S. Supreme Court prevented the Trump administration from ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. Now, Republicans are finding increasing fault with the Supreme Court.
DACA, an Obama-era program, allows people who came to the United States illegally and as children to obtain renewable residency and work permits, provided they fulfill certain requirements.
After taking office, President Donald Trump initially reassured DACA recipients—colloquially known as “Dreamers”—that their legal status would not be challenged.
But scarcely a half year into his term, President Trump began to backtrack. In September 2017, Trump announced that he would formally end DACA, sparking backlash and numerous lawsuits.
DACA was later upheld by federal courts, which ordered the federal government to continue processing program and certificate renewals. The case eventually found its way to the Supreme Court.
Yet, despite the Supreme Court’s conservative composition—two of the nine justices are Trump appointees—the panel ruled 5-4 to uphold DACA. The ruling, says CNN, was penned by conservative Chief Justice John Roberts, in tandem with Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer, and Sonia Sotomayor.
Roberts, notes CNN, effectively broke ranks with his fellow conservatives to defend DACA. His opinion emphasizes the Trump administration’s seemingly capricious decision to end the program.
“We do not decide whether DACA or its recission are sound policies,” Roberts wrote on behalf of the majority. “The ‘wisdom’ of those decisions ‘is none of our concern.’ We address only whether the agency complied with the procedural requirement that it provide a reasoned explanation for its action.”
The decision was quick to attract President Trump’s anger.
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 18, 2020
“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,” Trump wrote on Twitter.
Trump’s angry tweet was spurred not only by the justices’ decision on DACA, but another recent ruling which extended anti-discrimination protections to LGBTQ workers.
Both decisions, taken together, have enraged conservatives who believe that the supposedly conservative court has not just defied expectations but contradicted them.
“You have a Supreme Court that appears to be legislating,” Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R) told Fox News. “What really troubles a lot of people is that some of the folks the Republican party has put on the bench […] are actively becoming activists in the role that they’re playing. It’s concerning and frankly, undermines the purpose of the court.”
Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, also a Republican, took Rubio’s argument further, urging Chief Justice Roberts to resign.
“If the chief justice believes his political judgment is so exquisite, I invite him to resign, travel to Iowa and get elected,” Cotton said. “I suspect voters will find his strange views no more compelling than do the principled justices on the court.”
But even Fox News is quick to admit that the Supreme Court’s ideological flexibility has likely protected the Republican Party from the repercussions of short-sighted policy-making. Under President Trump, numerous conservative policy overhauls have failed—from a well-publicized attempt to end ObamaCare, to shutting down DACA.
However, repealing the Affordable Care Act would have cost millions of people insurance coverage. And DACA—heavily opposed by a certain segment of the political right—is, in fact, supported by an overwhelming majority of Americans.
And when it comes to DACA, Congress has failed, time and time again, to reach a bipartisan compromise that would protect undocumented youth while ensuring the integrity of the United States’ borders and immigration system.
Cornell Law Professor Stephen Yale-Loehr told CNN that the Supreme Court’s finding does not ensure DACA’s continued survival—however, it does likely buy Dreamers a long-term reprieve from deprivation or deportation.
“Today’s decision allows Dreamers to breathe a temporary sight of relief,” Yale-Loehr said. “The administration may try to terminate the DACA program with a better justification, but that will take months or years. In the meantime, Congress should enact permanent relief for Dreamers to end this drama once and for all.”