Jose Luis Magana / AFP via Getty Images
Updated at 10:30 a.m.ET
A narrowly divided Supreme Court extended a life line to some 650,000 so-called DREAMers on Thursday, allowing them to remain safe from eviction for now, while the Trump administration leaps through the administrative hoops that, according to the court, are required before ending the program
The vote was 5 to 4, with Chief Justice John Roberts casting the fifth deciding vote to bridge the liberal and conservative wings of the court.
Roberts and the four liberal judges of the court said that the Department of Homeland Security’s decision to cancel the DACA was arbitrary and capricious under the Administrative Procedure Act. (Read the decision here.)
In his opinion, Roberts wrote: “The proper remedy is therefore to refer to DHS so that it can reconsider the problem. ”
Launched in 2012, the DACA program has provided temporary protection from eviction to qualified individuals who were illegally brought to the United States as children. Under the program, DREAMers were allowed to work legally and apply for university loans if they met certain requirements and had passed a background check.
President Trump sought to end the program soon after he took office, saying it had been illegal and unconstitutional from the start.
But he was blocked by the lower courts and appealed to the Supreme Court, where on Thursday the judges split on the merits and the timetable.
The confused situation likely prevents the administration from implementing plans to begin the evictions immediately, but there is no doubt that if President Trump were re-elected, the President of the second term would almost certainly seek to end the program.
Justice Clarence Thomas, in his dissent, wrote: “Today’s decision must be recognized for what it is: an effort to avoid a politically controversial but legally correct decision. “
The court ruling poses a particularly delicate political problem for Republicans in Congress just four months before the November national elections.
DACA has been an extremely popular program, with opinion polls showing broad support for Democrats, independents and Republicans.
DACA recipients have obtained advanced degrees; they created businesses; they bought houses, had American citizen children; and 90% are employed. In fact, 29,000 are health professionals working on the front line of the COVID-19 response.
The DACA program was so popular that the Republican leadership of the Senate, not once, but twice, worked closely with the Democrats to reach an agreement to protect dreamers, so that Trump would return at the last moment.
What Trump will do before the November elections is a guess. The heart of its political base is opposed to immigration in almost all its forms. But this is no ordinary moment.
In the midst of a pandemic and a racial crisis, the court decision is likely to focus on another problem where the president disagrees with public sentiment, while at the same time placing Republican office holders between the rock views of their president and the hard place of their own reelection offers.