By GABRIELLE WANNEH
Capital News Service
WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court is due to hear arguments next week over the constitutionality of President Donald Trump's decision to terminate a program that protects young, undocumented immigrants from deportation.
Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers, 165 educational institutions (including the University of Maryland-College Park and Baltimore), and 143 businesses across the country have urged the nation’s highest court to save the program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.
"Dreamers were brought to America as children and grew up pledging allegiance to our flag." Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland, said in a recent statement. "America is the country they know and they contribute to our communities in countless ways."
Van Hollen and Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Maryland, are among 51 senators and 123 House members who filed a bipartisan amicus brief in support of DACA.
“The DACA program and Dreamers prove that it is possible to be both fair and compassionate, and that this country is best when we insist on being both,” Cardin said.
In the months leading up to the hearing, which is scheduled for next Tuesday, other briefs expressed similar views on the harm that terminating DACA could cause.
The Presidents' Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, a coalition of college and university leaders, argued that supporting DACA is “central to our mission as educators,” and that they are “devoted to the education of people to help them realize their ambitions and potential, and to contribute to their communities, to this country, and to the world.”
A group of 127 religious organizations also filed a brief, stating that their communities “stand to lose the tremendous investment made over many years to bring DACA recipients into adulthood with skills and multicultural perspectives that are sorely needed by the larger community and the nation.”
In a letter advising the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to end the program in 2017, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions stated that DACA was “an unconstitutional exercise of authority by the Executive Branch” and was implemented “without proper statutory authority.”
This has been the main argument of the government against the Regents of the University of California. That university, whose president, Janet Napolitano, was President Barack Obama’s homeland security secretary, filed suit three days after the announcement that DACA would be terminated. UC said it sued the government "for wrongly and unconstitutionally violating the rights of the University and its students."
Trump recently took to Twitter, urging the Supreme Court to strike down the immigration program, tweeting that leaving DACA intact would grant “extraordinary powers” to a president.
The president has also repeated claims that Obama had admitted to DACA being unconstitutional during a Rose Garden speech in 2012. According to Politifact, such claims had no basis.
Doug Pennington, spokesman for the Constitutional Accountability Center, a Washington-based progressive think tank, told Capital News Service that Trump’s claims that the law is on his side regarding DACA “is completely false.”
“Congress has long recognized that the executive branch must have discretion to determine how best to enforce the nation’s immigration laws - discretion that has been repeatedly upheld by the Supreme Court,” Pennington said.
DACA was created in 2012 by Obama as a means of providing immigrants who came to the United States as children the ability to work and live in the country without fear of being deported.
Five years later, the Trump administration announced that it would be rescinding the protections in September 2017.
Several lawsuits were filed against the federal government stating that its handling of DACA was unlawful. In July, the Supreme Court finally agreed to review these legal challenges and is expected to make a decision by next June.
“It’s upended a lot of people’s lives,” said Nicholas Katz, senior manager of the legal program for CASA, a Maryland-based immigration advocacy group.
As one of the largest regional providers of DACA services, CASA filed its own lawsuit against DHS about a month after the announcement to rescind the program was made. According to Katz, their litigation won in every court it was heard in. But despite the victories, there have been no new applications for the program since 2017.
“You’re going to see hundreds of thousands of people in support of DACA outside of the court,” Katz said, anticipating the hearing. “I hope to see the justices engaging with our attorneys and that they see that the faces in the room are going to be affected by their decision.”
Katz added that although he hopes the Supreme Court upholds the legality of DACA, that alone won’t be enough to provide real security for undocumented individuals.
“We need a legislative solution… The fight continues,” he said.
DACA supporters mounted a march to Washington on Oct. 26 at the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. The march is slated to conclude at the Supreme Court Tuesday as the arguments get underway.
Capital News Service is a program of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students in the program provide state government coverage for a variety of media outlets in Virginia.