Why the Supreme Court Denied Trump’s DACA Request

February 27, 2018 - (3 min read)

The Supreme Court will not be involved in the DACA litigation — for now.

This week, the Supreme Court denied the Trump administration’s request for it to review an earlier California federal district court decision which temporarily put the administration’s decision to terminate DACA on hold. To get relief, the Trump administration must now appeal the district court decision to the Ninth Circuit.

The Trump administration had asked the Supreme Court to get involved in this case before the Ninth Circuit had a chance to rule. The Supreme Court does not usually rule on federal district court decisions.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was established through a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Memorandum during the Obama presidency. The program allowed certain undocumented persons — those who arrived in the United States before age 16 and have lived here since June 15, 2007 — to stay, work and go to school in the United States without facing the risk of deportation for two years with renewals available.

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In September, the Trump DHS rescinded DACA after receiving a letter from the Attorney General stating the program was unconstitutional and created “without proper statutory authority.”

In January, a California federal district court issued a temporary nationwide injunction requiring the Trump administration to maintain much of the DACA program. Four states (California, Maine, Maryland, and Minnesota) and two local governments (San Jose and Santa Clara County) are among the plaintiffs who sued DHS in this case.

The Administrative Procedures Act prevents federal agencies from taking actions which are not “otherwise in accordance with law.” The district court acknowledged that DHS has the authority to terminate DACA on policy grounds.

But what the court cannot do is make a decision based on a “flawed legal premise.” The Attorney General’s conclusion that DACA was unconstitutional and lacked a basis in statutory authority was a “flawed legal premise” according to the court.

Earlier this month a federal district court in New York issued a similar temporary nationwide injunction temporarily preventing the Trump administration from ending DACA. The courts’ reasoning in both decisions is similar. New York and 15 other states brought the case decided by the New York court.

lisa_soronen_new_125x150About the author: Lisa Soronen is the executive director of the State and Local Legal Center (SLLC), which files Supreme Court amicus curiae briefs on behalf of the Big Seven national organizations, including the National League of Cities, representing state and local governments. She is a regular contributor to CitiesSpeak.