A narrowly divided Supreme Court extended Thursday a life-support line to some 650,000 so-called “Dreamers,” allowing them to remain safe from deportation for now, while the Trump administration jumps through the administrative hoops that the court said are required before ending the program.
The vote was 5-to-4, with Chief Justice John Roberts casting the decisive fifth vote that sought to bridge the liberal and conservative wings of the court.
Roberts and the court’s four liberal justices said the Department of Homeland Security’s decision to rescind DACA was arbitrary and capricious under the Administrative Procedure Act.
Begun in 2012, the DACA program gave temporary protection from deportation to qualified individuals brought to the U.S. illegally as children by their parents. Under the program, the “dreamers” were allowed to work legally and apply for college loans if they met certain requirements and passed a background check.
President Trump sought to end the program shortly after he took office, maintaining that it was illegal and unconstitutional from the start.
But he was blocked by the lower courts, and appealed to the Supreme Court, where Thursday the justices divided over both substance and timing.
The muddled state of play likely prevents the administration from enacting any plans to begin deportations immediately, but there is little doubt that should President Trump be re-elected, the second term president almost certainly would seek to end the program.
The court’s decision presents a particularly delicate political problem for congressional Republicans just four months before the national election in November.