By rejecting President Donald Trump’s attempt to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, the Supreme Court provided an unexpected lifeline to roughly 650,000 undocumented immigrants, known as Dreamers, who were facing the threat of deportation. Congress should seize the opportunity to give the Dreamers permanent protection and a pathway to the citizenship they deserve.
Created by President Obama in 2012, DACA allows undocumented immigrants brought to the country before the age of 16 to work in the U.S. and defer deportation, with the opportunity to renew their status every two years. The Trump administration announced an end to the program in 2017, arguing Obama’s original order was illegal.
In its 5-4 decision, the court rejected the administration’s reasons for terminating the Dreamers’ protections as “arbitrary and capricious.” The conservative minority objected on grounds many legal commentators had expected to prevail — namely that the administration was within its rights to reverse an earlier exercise of executive discretion. Whatever the constitutional merits, the immediate outcome should be celebrated: A cruel and ill-judged policy has been blocked.
Given the broad public support for allowing Dreamers to remain in the country, it’s unlikely the president will attempt to relitigate the question before the November election. Yet the reprieve does not relieve Congress of its obligation to devise a long-term solution for those currently enrolled in DACA, as well as the 1.6 million additional undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country as minors.
The persistent failure of both parties to pass legislation protecting the Dreamers is a national disgrace — and a disservice to their families, their employers and the taxpayers who’ve invested in their educations. Even now, bipartisan legislation that provides legal status and a path to citizenship for the Dreamers together with increased border-security funding should be embraced as a viable compromise. The likelihood Congress will take action in an election year, amid an ongoing health emergency, might seem remote — but, following the Court’s ruling, both parties have something to gain from finally drawing a line under the issue.
In allowing DACA to stand, the Supreme Court has advanced the interests of all Americans by giving hundreds of thousands of young people the opportunity to work and prosper in the only country most have ever known. Congress should now step up, pass a law to entrench this result and bring years of needless disruption and anxiety to an end.
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