What’s the future for Dreamers?

Julia Munslow
·6 min read

“The 360” shows you diverse perspectives on the day’s top stories and debates.

What’s happening

The Supreme Court has narrowly blocked the Trump administration’s bid to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The Obama-era policy protects hundreds of thousands of young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children from deportation and allows them to work legally.

While the Trump administration is undisputedly authorized to rescind the DACA program, the justices ruled 5-4 that the administration had failed to follow proper procedure and violated the Administrative Procedure Act in its attempt to end the program. Chief Justice John Roberts, who broke with his conservative colleagues, wrote in the majority opinion that the administration did not provide an adequate explanation for ending the program.

In the court’s main dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the DACA program is unlawful. Only Justice Sonia Sotomayor concluded that the administration was motivated by race in its attempt to rescind the program.

Why there’s debate

There’s widespread bipartisan support for DACA recipients, known as “Dreamers.” The court’s decision has been especially celebrated by Dreamers and immigration advocates. However, the ruling does not enshrine the DACA program in law and leaves the door open for the Trump administration to renew its efforts to end it.

While the decision reduces some uncertainty over the immediate future of Dreamers, advocates say that they’re still vulnerable because the program is not enforced by law. Congress must pass a law to protect Dreamers, they say. Until Congress creates a solution, Dreamers will continue to be used as a political bargaining chip, they say. But upholding DACA gives Congress little reason to act, others argue. With DACA in place, there is no incentive to force lawmakers to the table to create a permanent solution.

Politically, it’s expected that DACA will become a campaign issue. Many believe that the court’s ruling and the future of the program will be debated on the 2020 trail — especially since immigration reform is a signature part of Trump’s platform.

Most immigration experts say there isn’t enough time for Trump to rescind DACA before the November election. Some pundits say it’s a huge political risk to try to end a program that a majority of Americans want passed into law and that Trump should simply let the issue fade away. Others say the ruling is a danger because it shows that Trump didn’t meet one of his 2016 campaign promises. However, a second failure to end the program could reflect poorly on Trump during his reelection campaign, some say.

What’s next

Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf said his department will continue to process renewals for current DACA recipients while the Trump administration considers a new legal strategy for ending the program. However, it’s still unclear whether DHS will start processing new applications.

If elected, presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden pledged to reinstate DACA and introduce a bill in Congress to create a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and other undocumented people.

There are more legal battles ahead. A pending lawsuit by a group of red states argues former President Barack Obama overstepped his constitutional authority in creating DACA and could end the program.


This is a victory for Dreamers, but there’s still a fight ahead

“This is undoubtedly a victory, and yet we know it’s not permanent. The reality is that Trump and his administration continue to attack immigrants. Today’s victory must inspire all of us to continue to fight.” — Greisa Martinez Rosas to HuffPost

Dreamers are still vulnerable

“Mr. Trump occasionally expresses sympathy for the dreamers, but what matters is not what he says but what he does. … His administration could quickly issue a new memorandum with more careful reasoning that the court would presumably uphold.” — Editorial board, Washington Post

Until there’s a permanent solution, Dreamers will be used as political pawns

“Until Congress acts, Dreamers will continue to be used as bargaining chips, no matter who occupies the White House.” — Editorial board, Boston Globe

Congress must put DACA in a law

“At a base level, it’s troubling and dysfunctional that a relative handful of xenophobes among Trump’s base can in effect block a sensible humanitarian act supported by the vast majority of their fellow citizens. ... Congress needs to get its act together and take an obvious step in the national interest.” — Editorial board, Los Angeles Times

End DACA now

“We encourage the Trump administration not to give up but to end DACA now to preserve the rule of law, protect our borders and ensure the public safety.” — Tom Fitton to Politico

Now if Trump ends DACA, he’ll have to take full responsibility

“Polls show [upholding DACA] is in sync with the will of the American people (including Trump supporters), as well as with legal and practical considerations. Now if Trump wants to end DACA, he can still do so — but the fallout and political consequences will be all on him.” — Raul A. Reyes, CNN

Congress has no incentive to act

“President Trump’s DACA rescission had brought the political parties to the table, but Democrats now have little incentive to negotiate a compromise. They’ll hold out until they control the White House, impose their policies by executive fiat, and dare the Supreme Court to block them — and threaten to pack the Court if it does.” — Editorial, Wall Street Journal

If Trump tries to act, it could increase pressure on Congress

“If the administration sits on this, Congress wouldn’t have impetus to act because the program will continue to exist. If [Trump] starts the process of ending DACA all over again, then that does put some pressure on Congress, particularly if majorities in Congress want to see DACA recipients maintain status.” — Theresa Cardinal Brown to Vox

Trump will make DACA a campaign issue

“The administration is figuring out what is the best way to use this opinion to capitalize on solidifying its base. SCOTUS gives it cover to not move to change DACA immediately. ... ‘If you elect me, I’ll do this and much more in the next four years.’” — Elora Mukherjee to Los Angeles Times

Trump should let the issue fade away

“The smart play for Trump would have been to say that he disagrees with the decision and his administration will review how to address the issues the court objected to, and then let the issue go dormant until after the election. … But by fanning the issue, Trump reminds people just how heartless he can be.” — Scott Martelle, Los Angeles Times

It’s a loss for Trump and could affect his reelection campaign

“If Trump chooses to battle with Democrats over DACA this close to the election, he could please parts of his base while ultimately alienating key voters who haven’t yet turned on him completely.” — David Byler, Washington Post

Expand DACA protections to all immigrants

“Legalization for the privileged few inevitably comes at the expense of others. Despite protections afforded to DREAMers, immigrants continue to disappear into prisons and detention centers, surveilled and kidnapped by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, exploited and unprotected in their workplaces, and deported to their deaths.” — Barbara Sostaita, Teen Vogue

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