The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to make its decision on whether the Trump administration’s termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was lawful. Some 650,000 DACA recipients wait anxiously in limbo for the DACA Supreme Court ruling, which may potentially change their lives forever.
The DACA program, enacted by President Obama in 2012, provided temporary protection and work authorization for undocumented young individuals who were brought to the United States as children.
In 2017, the Trump administration moved to end the program. The Supreme Court is expected to give its ruling on the legality of the program’s termination before the end of June. Here’s what you need to know about the implications of this decision.
What Happens to DACA Recipients if the Supreme Court Strikes Down the Program?
Deportation is the primary concern and biggest fear for DACA recipients. While it’s a valid concern, it is unlikely that all recipients would be deported immediately.
Because DACA benefits are granted for two years, recipients will lose their benefits at different times. Many Dreamers will be afforded some time to figure out their next steps.
The Supreme Court’s ruling will also determine what happens next. This may mean a gradual shutdown of DACA and benefits expiring at different times for recipients. But again, this doesn’t necessarily mean immediate deportation as soon as those benefits expire.
DACA recipients may have the option of going to court to prevent deportation. If so, their cases would likely be added to backlogged immigration dockets, allowing them to stay in the U.S. until their court date. According to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, there were more than 1 million immigration cases pending in court as of August 2019.
If the current administration chooses to end work permits, these effects are also not likely to be immediate. Like DACA benefits, work permits also have expiration dates. If the government wanted to prevent them all from being used, they would have to physically collect them.
Other concerns have been raised over the fact that 30,000 Dreamers work in health care, according to a report from the Center for American Progress. With the lingering pandemic and concerns of subsequent waves of the coronavirus, it may be challenging to remove so many essential, front-line workers, particularly when there’s already a shortage of healthcare workers.
The fallout and backlash from ending DACA benefits could be problematic for the administration. Many DACA recipients have been working in their current positions for years. A Harvard University study also shows that the DACA program has helped contribute billions of dollars to the economy.
“Generally speaking, voters are pretty sympathetic to Dreamers,” said Nick Gourevitch of the New York City-based Global Strategy Group.
Would DACA Recipients Have Any Way to Stay in the Country?
Some Dreamers have already made the transition to legal permanent residents and even citizenship through marriage. DACA recipients may be able to pursue employment visas or other paths, but for many, their options are limited.
For others, the situation is more complicated and requires the help of an immigration lawyer, which some DACA recipients cannot afford.
If the Supreme Court sides with the Trump administration, DACA recipients will rightly be concerned about deportation. Deportation proceedings are a very real possibility.
The deportation process is as follows, according to the U.S. Government:
- You may be held in a detention center until trial or deportation.
- Your case will be heard by an Immigration Court of the U.S. Department of Justice.
- If the judge rules that deportation can proceed, the receiving country must agree, and travel documents must be issued. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will carry out the removal order.
The deportation process is incredibly complex, intimidating, and not something that you want to navigate on your own. Other pathways to legal status may be available to you, and you may have the right to appeal a deportation ruling. Hiring an immigration lawyer who is familiar with the deportation process and has a firm understanding of immigration law will help you achieve the best possible outcome.
Deportation is a very real possibility if the court sides with the Trump administration, but it is unlikely that immediate action will be taken. That will give you time to figure out your next steps and connect with a lawyer.
What if the DACA Supreme Court Ruling is in Favor of the Program?
Before the Dreamers can claim their victory, the Supreme Court has to answer several crucial questions:
- Did the Trump administration revoke DACA properly?
- If not, was it within President Obama’s power to even issue DACA?
- If yes, the Dreamers win. If not, Trump wins.
If the Supreme Court ultimately rules in favor of Dreamers, there is still a risk that the current administration may try to dismantle the program again in the future.
Risk isn’t necessarily a guarantee, so if the Supreme Court sides with Dreamers, they can breathe a sigh of relief for the time being.
The only surefire way to protect Dreamers is through legislation. In 2019, the House passed the Dream and Promise Act, but the bill hasn’t budged in the Senate.