Supreme Court Declines to Hear Trump Appeal of DACA Case

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The U.S. Supreme Court declined Monday to consider the Trump administration’s appeal of District Judge William Alsup’s injunction preventing the administration from ending DACA. Alsup, a judge at the San Francisco-based U.S. district court, granted the injunction on January 9 at the request of the state of California and other plaintiffs. The injunction prevents the administration from ending DACA while their lawsuits plays out in court.

The Supreme Court justices did not explain their reason for refusing to take the case, but said the appeal was “denied without prejudice.” This indicates that they will open to future consideration of the underlying legal issue still being considered by the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court also said it expects the lower court to “proceed expeditiously to decide this case.”

Justice Department spokesman Devin O’Malley said in a statement that “while we were hopeful for a different outcome,” the Supreme Court rarely agrees to take up cases before a lower court has ruled, “though in our view it was warranted for the extraordinary injunction requiring the Department of Homeland Security to maintain DACA.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced last September 5 that the DACA program will end in six months (March 5), giving Congress time to find a legislative solution for people enrolled in the program. DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) was originally created through an executive order issued under the Obama administration.

DACA recipients are commonly referred to as “Dreamers,” because former President Obama initiated DACA through executive actions after Congress failed to pass the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act). DREAM was first introduced in the Senate in 2001 and reintroduced in the 107th through 111th Congresses. It never passed both houses, but Obama was determined to implement it anyway, even if that meant brazenly usurping legislative power. So on June 15, 2012, he announced that his administration would stop deporting young illegal immigrants who met certain criteria previously proposed under the DREAM Act.

While campaigning for the presidency, candidate Trump promised that he would “immediately terminate” DACA after being elected. However, in recent months, he has increasingly demonstrated a willingness to compromise with Democrats by supporting legislation that would offer the same protection from deportation and extended work authorization that the Obama administration granted by means of executive actions taken by former Secretaries of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Jeh Johnson.

Despite these concessions, several federal judges have intervened in what by rights should be a matter for Congress to decide, and have blocked Trump from rescinding a program established not by Congress, but by former President Obama’s end run around Congress. Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York issued an order on February 13 that the Trump administration must accept renewal applications for DACA. 

Last September, Alsup was assigned four cases brought by parties suing to halt the administration’s decision to end the DACA program. On December 20, the Supreme Court unanimously issued an opinion urging Alsup to consider arguments by the Trump administration that ending DACA was within executive authority and is not reviewable by federal courts. 

Finally, as previously noted, on January 9 Alsup granted a temporary injunction halting the administration’s rescission of DACA. 

In an unusual move, the administration appealed directly to the Supreme Court instead of going first to a federal appeals court. The administration initially filed an appeal in the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, based in San Francisco, but the solicitor general then decided to go directly to the Supreme Court to seek a quick reversal.

The action the administration sought was highly unusual, observed a writer for the Los Angeles Times. It has been nearly 30 years since the Supreme Court granted review of a district judge’s ruling before an appeals court could rule on it.

The Trump administration has continuously been hamstrung by federal judges who have blocked its efforts to deal with matter related to immigration, not only DACA, but also Trump’s executive orders to block immigration from foreign nations where terrorism is rampant. Other judges have blocked the administration’s attempts to withhold federal aid to so-called “sanctuary” cities that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration agents who have issued detainer requests to local law enforcement officials.

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