Last Thursday, in a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the Trump administration’s termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was unlawful because it violated the Administrative Procedure Act.
Chief Justice John Roberts, who penned the majority opinion, wrote that the justification that the Trump administration gave for ending DACA was “arbitrary and capricious.” Though the administration may try to cancel the program again, the legal challenge would take months or years, according to reports, which would take the lawsuit past this year’s general election.
In a statement, Steve Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC), said Trump’s immigration policies are not just arbitrary and capricious, but also “just plain stupid.”
“It’s a victory for America’s families, communities, health and economy,” he said.
More than 800,000 DACA recipients, including 50,000 New Yorkers, will no longer be at risk of being separated from their families. In New York, 9,200 DACA recipients serve as frontline workers, including 1,200 health care workers.
“But this fight isn’t over,” Choi added. “We need to end this administration’s continued threats on New York’s families, especially during a time of global unrest and economic uncertainty.”
Introduced by former President Barack Obama in June 2012, DACA allows undocuemnted young people, commonly called Dreamers, to work legally. It also shields them from deportation.
In fall of 2017, Trump terminated DACA, but multiple federal courts ruled that the administration must continue accepting renewal applications. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments last November.
One of the plaintiffs in the case was Martin Batalla Vidal, a Mexican-American Dreamer whose DACA-issued work permit was revoked as a result of a Texas judge’s ruling. Vidal, who spoke about the case at a panel at LaGuardia Community College last November, then filed a federal lawsuit challenging the ruling.
Immigration advocacy groups like Make the Road, as well as other DACA recipients, including Antonio Alarcon from Queens, joined the case as co-plaintiffs. More than a dozen state attorneys general also filed separate lawsuits challenging the termination of DACA.
“I never thought I would be here,” Vidal said in the panel. “But DACA has given me the opportunities to be who I am and has helped my community.”
According to NYIC, over 50 percent of DACA recipients under the age of 25 are on track to receive a bachelor’s degree. More than 90 percent of DACA recipients are also employed.
Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz, a former Dreamer, said in a statement that the Supreme Court case “finally recognizes the humanity” of millions of undocumented immigrants.
“But more work must be done, as this is a temporary band-aid,” Cruz said. “We need real immigration reform that will ensure that every undocumented immigrant, including the original Dreamers, our parents, have a path to citizenship.”
Councilman Carlos Menchaca of Brooklyn, who chairs the City Council’s Immigration Committee, called the ruling a “victory for decency and humanity.” However, h noted that the Trump administration’s action was dismissed on procedural, rather than substantive grounds.
“That means the fight continues,” he said. “Congress must now act to create a permanent solution for Dreamers and our 11 million undocumented neighbors.”
Like elected officials and advocates, Bitta Mostofi, commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA), called on Congress to pass the American Dream and Promise Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for Dreamers.
“We wholeheartedly join our Dreamers and their families in celebrating today’s victory,” Mostofi said in a statement, “a testament to not only their years-long advocacy, but also their important roles in their communities.”
Attorney General Letitia James and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra led a coalition arguing the case before the Supreme Court.
“America is a country of immigrants,” James said. “Our culture is made richer by their contributions and our economy made more prosperous because of their work.
“To our Dreamers, know that you are valued, that you are loved,” she added, “and that we will always fight to protect you."