The Trump administration returned to the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday night seeking to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, an Obama-era amnesty initiative that extends protected status to illegal aliens brought to the U.S. as children.
The move is aggressive and unusual, as decisions on Trump’s efforts to rescind DACA are still pending in several federal appeals courts, and the justices seldom take up cases before those judgments are issued. But the U.S. Department of Justice told the Supreme Court on Monday that action is needed in the near future.
The Trump administration previously sought the Supreme Court’s review of its efforts to phase out DACA. After two federal judges issued injunctions requiring the government to continue administering the program, the Justice Department bypassed normal appellate procedure and went directly to the Supreme Court on Jan. 18 to vindicate its right to terminate the program.
The justices rejected that request on Feb. 26, but asked the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to quickly process the case so it could return to the high court in a reasonable timeframe. Other challenges to DACA repeal efforts are currently before appeals courts in New York and Washington, D.C.
“It is assumed that the Court of Appeals will proceed expeditiously to decide this case,” the Supreme Court’s February order read. No decision has since come from the circuit courts.
In a letter attending the government’s petition, Solicitor General Noel Francisco explained that the high court should take the cases now — even though the appeals courts have yet to render decisions on the matter — to ensure the justices can resolve the dispute during the current term.
“As this Court’s previous order recognized, prompt consideration of these cases is essential,” the letter reads. “By virtue of the district courts’ orders, DHS is being required to maintain a discretionary policy of non-enforcement sanctioning an ongoing violation of federal law by more than half a million individuals.”
“Yet, absent prompt intervention from this Court, there is little chance this dispute will be resolved for at least another year,” the letter adds.
On the merits of the dispute, the Trump administration contends that its decision to terminate DACA cannot be reviewed in court, since the program exists entirely at the executive branch’s discretion. Even if its termination decision is reviewable, they continue, it is still reasonable and lawful.
New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood, who served as acting solicitor general in the Clinton administration, said the Justice Department has shown serious disregard for ordinary judicial process in the DACA case and other disputes in a Monday evening tweet.
DACA extends temporary legal status to approximately 700,000 migrants, and allows them to obtain work permits.
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