In a 5-4 decision written by Chief Justice John Roberts on Department of Homeland Security et al vs. Regents of the University of California, the Supreme Court held that the DACA rescission was improper under the Administrative Procedures Act.
In the decision, Chief Justice Roberts concludes “that the acting secretary violated the [Administrative Procedure Act]” and thus the decision to end the DACA program must be vacated. Today, over 700,000 foreign nationals have availed themselves of the opportunities provided by DACA.
In his opinion, Chief Justice Roberts writes:
“We do not decide whether DACA or its rescission are sound policies. ‘The wisdom’ of those decisions ‘is none of our concern.’ Chenery II, 332 U. S., at 207. We address only whether the agency complied with the procedural requirement that it provide a reasoned explanation for its action. Here the agency failed to consider the conspicuous issues of whether to retain forbearance and what if anything to do about the hardship to DACA recipients. That dual failure raises doubts about whether the agency appreciated the scope of its discretion or exercised that discretion in a reasonable manner. The appropriate recourse is therefore to remand to DHS so that it may consider the problem anew.”
Chief Justice Roberts was joined in the majority by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sotomayor. Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh filed opinions that concurred with parts of the dissent and majority.
On June 15, 2012, then-Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano issued a memorandum creating a non-congressionally authorized administration program that allowed certain individuals who entered the United States as children and met various other requirements, namely lacking current lawful immigration status, to request deferred action for an initial period of up to two years, with the ability to renew thereafter, and eligibility for work authorization. This program became known as DACA – Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
The program has faced continuous constitutional scrutiny since its creation, including the Department of Homeland Security’s order that ended the program in 2017. Lower court rulings enabled the DACA program to continue, ultimately leading to suit being brought before the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court’s decision is not a final resolution on DACA, but instead rules that the Trump Administration’s total recession of DACA was “arbitrary and capricious” and that the administration failed to give adequate justification for ending the program. This decision keeps the DACA program in place.