US Supreme Court rejects Trump over 'Dreamers' immigrants

WASHINGTON, Feb 26 (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday dealt a setback to President Donald Trump, requiring his administration to maintain protections he has sought to end for hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought illegally into the United States as children.

The justices refused to hear the administration's appeal of a federal judge's Jan. 9 injunction that halted Trump's move to rescind a program that benefits immigrants known as "Dreamers" implemented in 2012 by his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama. Under the Republican president's action, the protections were due to start phasing out beginning in March.

In a brief order, the justices did not explain their reasoning, but said the appeal was "denied without prejudice," indicating they will maintain an open mind on the underlying legal issue still being considered by a lower court, the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The high court also said it expects the lower court to "proceed expeditiously to decide this case."

Under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, roughly 700,000 young adult, mostly Hispanics, are protected from deportation and given work permits for two-year periods, after which they must re-apply.

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Dreamers await their fate
DACA recipient Barbara Hernandez (L), 26, chats to a friend after eating lunch in a diner in Garden Grove, California, U.S., January 22, 2018. Hernandez graduated from Orange Coast Community College. She came to the U.S. from Mexico City when she was six years old. She worked as a special education teacher until she chose to quit after the repeal of DACA. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
DACA recipient Barbara Hernandez, 26, poses for a portrait in Garden Grove, California, U.S., January 22, 2018. Hernandez graduated from Orange Coast Community College. She came to the U.S. from Mexico City when she was six years old. She worked as a special education teacher until she chose to quit after the repeal of DACA. "That was the most rewarding and loving job I have ever had. But with this administration and the repeal of DACA I was very scared. I was thrown into this panic stage; I was depressed. I'm concerned about how DACA recipients are feeling, their mental state. I would like to see permanent protection for not only us, DACA recipients, but for all eleven million immigrants," Hernandez said. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
DACA recipient Martha Valenzuela, 23, sits in a coffee shop in Orange, California, U.S., January 23, 2018. Valenzuela is a Cal State Fullerton graduate who came to the U.S. from Sinaloa, Mexico, when she was two years old. Valenzuela's mother crossed the Arizona desert to join her and her father in the U.S. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
DACA recipient Martha Valenzuela, 23, poses for a portrait outside her office in Orange, California, U.S., January 23, 2018. Valenzuela is a Cal State Fullerton graduate who came to the U.S. from Sinaloa, Mexico, when she was two years old. Valenzuela's mother crossed the Arizona desert to join her and her father in the U.S. When she heard about Trump rescinding DACA, Valenzuela said, "It broke me. It's traumatising because I've lived in this country for 21 years. We all want a pathway to citizenship. We all want permanent protection for us and our families. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
DACA recipient Karla Estrada, 26, poses for a portrait outside her apartment in Los Angeles, California U.S. January 23, 2018. Estrada is a UCLA graduate who works as a paralegal assistant while preparing to attend law school. She came to the U.S. from Morelos, Mexico, when she was five years old. "DACA has always been very problematic and temporary. It's not an ideal thing. It has given us the liberty to work, legally, without fear that in three months we're going to get fired because we have no social. I have to take care of myself in this country but I also have to take care of my mom and dad and brother in Mexico. The thing that scares me the most is not being able to take care of my family. I think it's important for all DACA recipients to understand that DACA or any type of legislation, although very beneficial, does not define who you are as a human being and does not give you any more or any less dignity than you already have," Estrada said. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
DACA recipient Javier Hernandez Kistte, 27, looks at his cat in his home in Los Angeles, California U.S. January 24, 2018. Hernandez Kistte is a UC Irvine graduate who now works for a visual effects company. He came to the U.S. from Mexico City when he was eight years old. Kistte said that DACA allowed him and his brother to finish their degrees by allowing them to work to pay for tuition. "My parents are still undocumented and as a family we struggle with the anxiety that it's possible for them to get deported at any moment. That anxiety has now risen with the uncertainty that me and my brother might return to having an undocumented status," he said.
DACA recipient Karla Estrada, 26, walks to the station to go to work in Los Angeles, California U.S. January 23, 2018. Estrada is a UCLA graduate who works as a paralegal assistant while preparing to attend law school. She came to the U.S. from Morelos, Mexico, when she was five years old. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
DACA recipient Brian Caballero, 25, scales a rock-climbing wall in Pomona, California, U.S., January 25, 2018. Caballero is an electrical engineering undergraduate student in his last year of Cal Poly Pomona University. He came to the U.S. when he was five or six years old from Guadalajara, Mexico. Caballero said he was worried about losing DACA: "When I finally graduate, not being able to be employed, terrifies me... The vast majority of people who are unauthorised in this country are here to have a better life... the majority of people are like me: here, trying to seek an education and just trying to improve their lives." REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson 
DACA recipient and electrical engineering student Brian Caballero, 25, works on a circuit board for his lab class in Pomona, California, U.S., January 25, 2018. Caballero is an electrical engineering undergraduate student in his last year of Cal Poly Pomona University. He came to the U.S. when he was five or six years old from Guadalajara, Mexico. Caballero said he was worried about losing DACA: "When I finally graduate, not being able to be employed, terrifies me... The vast majority of people who are unauthorised in this country are here to have a better life... the majority of people are like me: here, trying to seek an education and just trying to improve their lives." REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson 
DACA recipient Javier Hernandez Kistte, 27, works at his job in visual effects in Los Angeles, California, U.S., January 24, 2018. Hernandez Kistte is a UC Irvine graduate who now works for a visual effects company. He came to the U.S. from Mexico City when he was eight years old. Hernandez Kistte said that DACA allowed him and his brother to finish their degrees by allowing them to work to pay for tuition. "My parents are still undocumented and as a family we struggle with the anxiety that it's possible for them to get deported at any moment. That anxiety has now risen with the uncertainty that me and my brother might return to having an undocumented status... It's not only about us. I've heard of people who are willing to negotiate terms that will give us the right to be here, give us DACA, but will make life a living nightmare for other people and I don't want that," he said. 
DACA recipient Javier Hernandez Kistte, 27, leaves for work from his home in Los Angeles, California, U.S., January 24, 2018. Hernandez Kistte is a UC Irvine graduate who now works for a visual effects company. He came to the U.S. from Mexico City when he was eight years old. Hernandez Kistte said that DACA allowed him and his brother to finish their degrees by allowing them to work to pay for tuition. "My parents are still undocumented and as a family we struggle with the anxiety that it's possible for them to get deported at any moment. That anxiety has now risen with the uncertainty that me and my brother might return to having an undocumented status... It's not only about us. I've heard of people who are willing to negotiate terms that will give us the right to be here, give us DACA, but will make life a living nightmare for other people and I don't want that," he said. 
DACA recipient Brian Caballero, 25, prepares morning coffee in the ambulance in which he lives on his college campus in Pomona, California, U.S., January 25, 2018. Caballero is an electrical engineering undergraduate student in his last year of Cal Poly Pomona University. He came to the U.S. when he was five or six years old from Guadalajara, Mexico. Caballero said he was worried about losing DACA: "When I finally graduate, not being able to be employed, terrifies me... The vast majority of people who are unauthorised in this country are here to have a better life... the majority of people are like me: here, trying to seek an education and just trying to improve their lives." REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson 
DACA recipient Brian Caballero, 25, walks out of the ambulance in which he lives on his college campus in Pomona, California, U.S., January 25, 2018. Caballero is an electrical engineering undergraduate student in his last year of Cal Poly Pomona University. He came to the U.S. when he was five or six years old from Guadalajara, Mexico. Caballero said he was worried about losing DACA: "When I finally graduate, not being able to be employed, terrifies me... The vast majority of people who are unauthorised in this country are here to have a better life... the majority of people are like me: here, trying to seek an education and just trying to improve their lives." REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson 
DACA recipient Martha Valenzuela (C), 23, sits in a coffee shop with friends Courtney Folsom (L), 24, and Mariah Osborn, 22, in Fullerton, California, U.S., January 25, 2018. Valenzuela is a Cal State Fullerton graduate who came to the U.S. from Sinaloa, Mexico, when she was two years old. Valenzuela's mother crossed the Arizona desert to join her and her father in the U.S. When she heard about Trump rescinding DACA, Valenzuela said: "It broke me... It's traumatising... because I've lived in this country for 21 years... We all want a pathway to citizenship. We all want permanent protection for us and our families... The reason this country labeled us as 'Dreamers' is because we want something ? as if that dream is unattainable. No, If we can dream it, we can achieve it... It takes guts to have a dream and it takes guts to fight for it." REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
DACA recipient Javier Hernandez Kistte, 27, poses for a portrait outside his home in Los Angeles, California, U.S., January 24, 2018. Hernandez Kistte is a UC Irvine graduate who now works for a visual effects company. He came to the U.S. from Mexico City when he was eight years old. Hernandez Kistte said that DACA allowed him and his brother to finish their degrees by allowing them to work to pay for tuition. "My parents are still undocumented and as a family we struggle with the anxiety that it's possible for them to get deported at any moment. That anxiety has now risen with the uncertainty that me and my brother might return to having an undocumented status... It's not only about us. I've heard of people who are willing to negotiate terms that will give us the right to be here, give us DACA, but will make life a living nightmare for other people and I don't want that," he said. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson 
DACA recipient Javier Hernandez Kistte, 27, puts dishes in the sink at his home in Los Angeles, California, U.S., January 24, 2018. Hernandez Kistte is a UC Irvine graduate who now works for a visual effects company. He came to the U.S. from Mexico City when he was eight years old. Hernandez Kistte said that DACA allowed him and his brother to finish their degrees by allowing them to work to pay for tuition. "My parents are still undocumented and as a family we struggle with the anxiety that it's possible for them to get deported at any moment. That anxiety has now risen with the uncertainty that me and my brother might return to having an undocumented status... It's not only about us. I've heard of people who are willing to negotiate terms that will give us the right to be here, give us DACA, but will make life a living nightmare for other people and I don't want that," he said. 
DACA recipient Karla Estrada, 26, watches a TV show at her apartment in Los Angeles, California, U.S., January 23, 2018. Estrada is a UCLA graduate who works as a paralegal assistant while preparing to attend law school. She came to the U.S. from Morelos, Mexico, when she was five years old. "DACA has always been very problematic and temporary ? it's not an ideal thing. It has given us the liberty to work, legally, without fear that in three months we're going to get fired because we have no social [security number]. I have to take care of myself in this country but I also have to take care of my mom and dad and brother in Mexico... The thing that scares me the most is not being able to take care of my family... I think it's important for all DACA recipients to understand that DACA or any type of legislation, although very beneficial... does not define who you are as a human being and does not give you any more or any less dignity than you already have," Estrada said. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson 
DACA recipient Barbara Hernandez (C), 26, participates in a protest for a clean Dream Act, in Anaheim, California, U.S., January 22, 2018. Hernandez graduated from Orange Coast Community College. She came to the U.S. from Mexico City when she was six years old. She worked as a special education teacher until she chose to quit after the repeal of DACA. "That was the most rewarding and loving job I have ever had. But with this administration and the repeal of DACA... I was very scared. I was thrown into this panic stage; I was depressed... I'm concerned about how DACA recipients are feeling, their mental state... I would like to see permanent protection for not only us, DACA recipients, but for all eleven million immigrants," Hernandez said. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson 
DACA recipient Martha Valenzuela, 23, leaves her office at lunchtime in Orange, California, U.S., January 23, 2018. Valenzuela is a Cal State Fullerton graduate who came to the U.S. from Sinaloa, Mexico, when she was two years old. Valenzuela's mother crossed the Arizona desert to join her and her father in the U.S. When she heard about Trump rescinding DACA, Valenzuela said: "It broke me... It's traumatising... because I've lived in this country for 21 years... We all want a pathway to citizenship. We all want permanent protection for us and our families... The reason this country labeled us as 'Dreamers' is because we want something ? as if that dream is unattainable. No, If we can dream it, we can achieve it... It takes guts to have a dream and it takes guts to fight for it." REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson 
DACA recipient Karla Estrada, 26, walks to the station to go to work in Los Angeles, California, U.S., January 23, 2018. Estrada is a UCLA graduate who works as a paralegal assistant while preparing to attend law school. She came to the U.S. from Morelos, Mexico, when she was five years old. "DACA has always been very problematic and temporary ? it's not an ideal thing. It has given us the liberty to work, legally, without fear that in three months we're going to get fired because we have no social [security number]. I have to take care of myself in this country but I also have to take care of my mom and dad and brother in Mexico... The thing that scares me the most is not being able to take care of my family... I think it's important for all DACA recipients to understand that DACA or any type of legislation, although very beneficial... does not define who you are as a human being and does not give you any more or any less dignity than you already have," Estrada said. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
DACA recipient Barbara Hernandez (C), 26, helps plan a protest for a clean Dream Act at her home in Santa Ana, California, U.S., January 22, 2018. Hernandez graduated from Orange Coast Community College. She came to the U.S. from Mexico City when she was six years old. She worked as a special education teacher until she chose to quit after the repeal of DACA. "That was the most rewarding and loving job I have ever had. But with this administration and the repeal of DACA... I was very scared. I was thrown into this panic stage; I was depressed... I'm concerned about how DACA recipients are feeling, their mental state... I would like to see permanent protection for not only us, DACA recipients, but for all eleven million immigrants," Hernandez said. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson 
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"The DACA program -- which provides work permits and myriad government benefits to illegal immigrants en masse -- is clearly unlawful. The district judge's decision to unilaterally re-impose a program that Congress had explicitly and repeatedly rejected is a usurpation of legislative authority," White House spokesman Raj Shah said.

"We look forward to having this case expeditiously heard by the appeals court and, if necessary, the Supreme Court, where we fully expect to prevail," Shah added.

The Trump administration had challenged a nationwide injunction by San Francisco-based U.S. District Judge William Alsup, who ruled last month that DACA must remain in place while the litigation is resolved.

In an unusual move, the administration appealed directly to the Supreme Court instead of going first to a federal appeals court.

Alsup ruled that the challengers, including the states of California, Maine, Maryland and Minnesota and Obama's former homeland security secretary Janet Napolitano, were likely to succeed in arguing that the administration's decision to end DACA was arbitrary.

 

'FULLY LEGAL'

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, a Democrat, called the administration's bid to bypass the 9th Circuit, which has ruled again Trump on other matters, "unusual and unnecessary."

"We look forward to explaining to the Ninth Circuit court that DACA is fully legal. For the sake of the Dreamers who help make our economy and our state strong, the rescission of DACA should not be allowed to stand," Becerra said in a statement.

The DACA dispute is the latest major case brought to the Supreme Court for its consideration arising from Trump's immigration policies. The justices are due to hear arguments in April on the legality of his latest travel ban order barring entry to people from several Muslim-majority nations.

Congress so far has failed to pass legislation to address the fate of the "Dreamers," including a potential path to citizenship.

Justice Department spokesman Devin O'Malley said in a statement that the administration will continue to defend the Department of Homeland Security's "lawful authority to wind down DACA in an orderly manner."

O'Malley said that "while we were hopeful for a different outcome," the high 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."

Trump's move to rescind DACA prompted legal challenges by Democratic state attorneys general and various organizations and individuals in multiple federal courts. His administration argued that Obama exceeded his powers under the Constitution when he bypassed Congress and created DACA.

On Feb. 13, a second U.S. judge issued a similar injunction ordering the Trump administration to keep DACA in place. U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis in Brooklyn acted in a lawsuit brought by plaintiffs including a group of states led by New York.

Judges Alsup and Garaufis did not say that the administration could not at some point end the program, only that there was evidence it did not follow the correct procedures in doing so.

The rulings allow those who had previously applied for protections and whose two-year status was soon to expire to apply beyond the deadline set by the administration in September.

The original plan put on hold by the court rulings said that only those who re-applied by October and whose status was due to expire by March 5 could re-apply.

The administration is not processing new applications. (Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Additional reporting by Mica Rosenberg and Andrew Chung; Editing by Will Dunham)

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