The Supreme Court Feb. 26 opted not to hear an appeal by the Trump administration seeking to overturn two federal court decisions that allow the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to remain in place.
DACA currently shields more than 800,000 undocumented young people – including an estimated 7,000 Indian Americans – from deportation. The program, an Obama-era initiative rolled out in 2012, also allows DACA recipients to receive work permits and drivers’ licenses.
Indian American immigration attorney Kalpana Peddibhotla explained the impact of the decision to India-West. “The Supreme Court’s decision means that an earlier injunction issued by the U.S. District Court in San Francisco remains in effect. DHS is required to continue to process and accept DACA applications, until a final decision is reached on the legal validity of DACA.”
“DACA recipients can continue to file extensions and remain in the U.S., which for the vast majority is the only home that they know. Ideally, Congress needs to act in order for there to be a permanent solution and a pathway toward citizenship,” said Peddibhotla, founder of the Newark, Calif.-based Mathews Peddibhotla Law Group.
On Jan. 9, U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup in San Francisco, Calif., issued an order prohibiting the Department of Homeland Security from discontinuing DACA nationwide while legal challenges proceeded on the merits of rescinding DACA. On Feb. 13, Judge Nicholas Garaufis of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York also allowed DACA to remain in place, noting that Trump acted in an “arbitrary and capricious manner” in terminating the program. Garaufis predicted that DACA recipients who are challenging Trump’s rescission of the program are likely to succeed.
Trump rescinded DACA on Sept. 5, 2017, mandating Congress to come up with a permanent fix for undocumented youth by March 5.
The Senate failed to pass four measures Feb. 15 – three which would have granted a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, as DACA youth are often called – leaving thousands of children under threat of deportation as their DACA protection expired.
A bi-partisan measure – which offered a pathway to citizenship, and $25 billion to fund a border wall – failed by six votes. President Donald Trump has blamed Democrats for the measure’s failure, stating that Republicans are willing to compromise.
During a press call with reporters as the Senate vote was taking place, Sameera Hafiz, senior policy strategist at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center in Washington, D.C., said regardless of the outcome of the Senate votes, the immigration quagmire would continue, as House Speaker Paul Ryan has said the House will only vote on legislation supported by Trump.
In an e-mail to the online news site Roll Call, White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah said the administration “fully expects to prevail” in the case at the appellate level or Supreme Court.
“The DACA program — which provides work permits and myriad government benefits to illegal immigrants en masse — is clearly unlawful,” said Shah, who is Indian American. “The district judge’s decision unilaterally to re-impose a program that Congress had explicitly and repeatedly rejected is a usurpation of legislative authority.”
Rep. Judy Chu, D-California, issued a statement shortly after the Supreme Court decision was announced, stating that the temporary reprieve does not let Congress off the hook for passing a Dream Act that would provide permanent protection from deportation and a pathway to citizenship for undocumented youth.
“Since his cruel September decision to rescind DACA protections come March, Trump has been using DACA recipients as hostages for his political agenda, while painting the immigrants themselves as violent criminals, leaving them to worry about their future,” said Chu, chairwoman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.
“Fortunately, with this order, Trump continues to be prevented from fulfilling his hateful promises. But it only applies to those who have already received DACA protections. Many others are still waiting. That is why it’s time to get back to work on a serious immigration fix that includes the DREAM Act and meets our country’s economic needs while keeping families together,” said Chu.
The University of California, which has an estimated 4,000 Dreamers enrolled as students across its nine campuses, said in a Feb. 26 press statement: "We are pleased the Supreme Court has denied the government's petition. As we argued to the court, it was inappropriate for the Trump administration to short circuit standard appellate procedure and attempt to skip the U.S. Court of Appeals — a precipitous approach that echoes the government's procedurally improper rescission of DACA at the heart of this case.”
“Now that the administration's extraordinary maneuver has been rightfully rejected, we look forward to defending U.S. District Judge Alsup's injunction in the Court of Appeals.”
UC president Janet Napolitano helped create DACA in 2012, while helming the Department of Homeland Security.
Indian American Boe Mendewala, an undocumented Ph.D. student studying physics at the University of California-Merced, told India-West in January that her DACA status expires in April 2019 – just after her expected graduation date (see India-West story here: http://bit.ly/2neDMMa).
Mendewala, who has lived in the U.S. since the age of five, feared not only that she would be deported, if Congress does not come up with a permanent solution, but also that she would not be able to work, wasting her hard-won, challenging STEM education.
“This country has already invested in me. Why wouldn’t they want to use my skills?” she queried, noting that — if she has to leave the U.S. — her two degrees will be hugely useful to enrich research in another country.