Trump turns to Supreme Court to wind down 'Dreamer' immigration program

WASHINGTON, Nov 5 (Reuters) - President Donald Trump's administration asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday to allow it to end a program introduced by former President Barack Obama that protects thousands of young immigrants who live in the United States without legal status.

The day before congressional elections in which Trump's harsh anti-immigration rhetoric has taken center stage, the administration urged the justices to throw out three lower court rulings that blocked Trump's plan to wind down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

The policy has shielded from deportation immigrants dubbed "Dreamers" and given them work permits, though not a path to citizenship.

In a court filing, Solicitor General Noel Francisco said the original DACA policy was introduced by Obama administration officials "even though existing laws provided them no ability to do so." Now, it is lawful for the Department of Homeland Security to change course, he added.

"It is plainly within DHS's authority to set the nation's immigration enforcement priorities and to end the discretionary DACA policy," Francisco said.

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Dreamers await their fate
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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 Justice Department's move was unusually aggressive in terms of procedure, asking the justices to take action even before intermediate federal appeals courts have ruled on the three lower court rulings. The administration says a final ruling is urgently needed.

If the Supreme Court, which has a 5-4 conservative majority, agrees to hear the case, a ruling would likely come before the end of June.

Trump and his conservative political allies have made his hard-line policies toward immigration a key issue ahead of Tuesday's midterm elections that will determine if his fellow Republicans maintain control of Congress.

The Trump administration has argued that Obama exceeded his constitutional powers when he bypassed Congress and created DACA, which offers protections to roughly 700,000 young adults, mostly Hispanics.

The administration is contesting three different district court rulings from judges in California, New York and the District of Columbia that told the administration to continue processing renewals of existing DACA applications while litigation over the legality of Trump's action is resolved.

(Reporting by Tom Hals and Lawrence Hurley, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)

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