Nevadans hail court ruling rejecting Trump’s attack on DACA

DACA recipients and their supporters rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on June 18, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Nevada elected officials and immigration activists heaped praise on the U.S. Supreme Court ruling Thursday rejecting the Trump administration’s attempt to scrap the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA — a court ruling that allows some 14,000 young Nevadans to breathe a sigh of relief.

“Dream Big Nevada applauds the Supreme Court’s decision to allow DREAMers the opportunity to follow their dreams and continue contributing to communities we call home,” said Astrid Silva, Executive Director of Dream Big Nevada.

“DACA empowered undocumented youth to come out of the shadows and contribute to our communities in immeasurable ways – from serving in our military to being on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic,” said Nevada Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, the first Latina elected to the U.S. Senate.

Sen. Jacky Rosen and Democratic Reps. Dina Titus, Steven Horsford and Susie Lee, along with Gov. Steve Sisolak and numerous other state and local elected officials, likewise hailed the decision.

But the celebration was tempered with warnings that the Supreme Court decision fails to resolve continued uncertainty for Dreamers.

That uncertainty, “still hangs over them, Cortez Masto said. “Congress must provide permanent relief for Dreamers and finally give them the opportunity to become full citizens of this country.”

“While we wait to dissect the complete decision which includes who is eligible to apply for DACA, we encourage DREAMers not to get ahead of themselves,” said Jocelyn Cortez, a Las Vegas immigration attorney and Dream Big Nevada board member. “The new application is still not available,” Cortez noted, urging people to beware “of fraudulent organizations promising immediate relief.”

‘Arbitrary and capricious’

In a 5-4 decision, Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the court’s liberal wing in finding that the Trump administration broke the law in 2017 when it rescinded the DACA program.

Roberts wrote the majority opinion and was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor.

The court held that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s decision to end the program was “arbitrary and capricious” and therefore in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act.

“We do not decide whether DACA or its rescission are sound policies,” Roberts wrote. “‘The wisdom’ of those decisions ‘is none of our concern.’

But the department, he said, “failed to consider the conspicuous issues of whether to retain forbearance and what if anything to do about the hardship to DACA recipients. That dual failure raises doubts about whether the agency appreciated the scope of its discretion or exercised that discretion in a reasonable manner.”

Justice Clarence Thomas called the ruling “mystifying” in a dissenting opinion. “Today’s decision must be recognized for what it is: an effort to avoid a politically controversial but legally correct decision,” he wrote.

The ruling will likely inflame partisan tensions ahead of the 2020 presidential contest. It comes days after the court issued an unexpected ruling protecting LGBTQ workers from job discrimination.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called the pair of rulings “a bright ray of sunshine” during difficult times. “This is a wonderful, wonderful day,” he said in a statement.

The DACA program was created in 2012 to allow certain immigrants who arrived in the United States before age 16 to apply for temporary protection from deportation and work permits.

About 700,000 people have participated in the program, according to the court. A 2017 survey of DACA recipients found that nearly all respondents were either employed or in school, according to the Center for American Progress.

President Donald Trump vowed on the campaign trail to “end” the program. His administration made good on his promise in 2017, but lower courts blocked the decision from taking effect.

The administration could try to end the program again, the court noted. If it does, it will have to do so in a way that complies with federal law governing such decisions.

Last June, the U.S. House passed legislation that would safeguard the program and provide a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers. The bill has not been taken up in the U.S. Senate.

Allison Stevens
Allison Stevens is a Washington D.C. reporter for States Newsroom, a network of state-based nonprofit news outlets that includes Nevada Current.