In a case that began in San Francisco, the U.S. Supreme Court Monday left in place protections for nearly 700,000 undocumented young people who arrived in the United States as children.
The high court turned down a Justice Department appeal for immediate review of a preliminary injunction blocking most of President Donald Trump’s repeal of the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA.
The nationwide preliminary injunction was issued by U.S. District Judge William Alsup of San Francisco in January, in five lawsuits filed by entities including the University of California and the state of California.
In a brief order, the Supreme Court rejected the Trump Administration’s unusual request for immediate review and instead said the case should follow the normal appeal route of proceedings before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
The 9th Circuit process is expected to take at least several months and thus Alsup’s injunction blocking the repeal will stay in effect at least until then or longer.
The 9th Circuit’s eventual ruling could be appealed back to the Supreme Court and the Justice Department has said that full resolution of the case could take a year.
An estimated 690,000 DACA recipients now have a reprieve from deportation, which otherwise could have begun on a rolling basis on March 5.
Under Trump’s order, up to 1,000 young people per day would have been eligible for deportation beginning on March 5 as their DACA authorizations expired.
Congress has been unable to agree on a law addressing the situation of DACA recipients, known as Dreamers.
Alsup said in his Jan. 9 ruling that the Trump administration violated a federal administrative procedure law by failing to provide a “reasoned explanation” for the repeal.
Another federal judge in Brooklyn, New York, issued a similar nationwide preliminary injunction two weeks ago. That ruling would normally go through a different federal appeals court, the New York-based 2nd Circuit, before reaching the Supreme Court.
Justice Department spokesman Devin O’Malley said in a statement:
“We will continue to defend the Department of Homeland Security’s lawful authority to wind down DACA in an orderly manner.”
The Supreme Court’s rarely-granted process of hearing an appeal that bypasses an intermediate appeals court is known as certiorari before judgment.
“While we were hopeful for a different outcome, the Supreme Court very rarely grants certiorari before judgment, though in our view it was warranted for the extraordinary injunction requiring the DHS to maintain DACA.”
Alsup’s preliminary injunction requires the administration to keep DACA protections in place for current recipients but does not required the DHS to accept new applications.
The University of California, which filed the first of five lawsuits challenging the repeal, said in a statement:
“Now that the administration’s extraordinary maneuver has been rightfully rejected, we look forward to defending Judge Alsup’s injunction in the Court of Appeals. … As we argued to the court, it was inappropriate for the Trump administration to short-circuit standard appellate procedure and attempt to skip the U.S. Court of Appeals — a precipitous approach that echoes the government’s procedurally improper rescission of DACA at the heart of this case.”
The other four lawsuits were filed by the states of California, Maine, Maryland and Minnesota acting together; the city of San Jose; six individuals; and Santa Clara County together with the Service Employees International Union.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra called the Justice Department’s bid for immediate review “unusual and unnecessary” and said:
“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.”
SEIU international vice president Rocio Saenz said:
“The court’s decision is a defeat for the Trump administration and a victory for immigrant families.”
The Justice Department could have asked the Supreme Court for a stay of Alsup’s injunction, but chose not to do so. U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco said in a filing that the administration did not want to risk possible disruption resulting from shifting court orders concerning the DACA repeal.
The DACA program was established by the administration of President Barack Obama in 2012.
It allows undocumented people who arrived in the U.S. as children to apply for deferment of deportation and authorization to work, renewable every two years.
Alsup said in his injunction ruling that the DACA repeal action violated the Administrative Procedure Act, which prohibits “arbitrary and capricious” administrative actions.
He said the repeal was based on a “mistake of law.” That mistake, he said, was Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ conclusion that the program was illegal.
In fact, Alsup said, previous use of deferred immigration action by the executive branch has been allowed or approved by both Congress and the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court said in its two-sentence order:
“It is assumed that the Court of Appeals will act expeditiously to decide this case.”
Because the Justice Department appealed simultaneously last month to the 9th Circuit as well as the Supreme Court, the appeals court has already set an expedited briefing schedule. That schedule has final briefs due at the start of May, with a hearing to be set at an unspecified date sometime after that.
The schedule means that an appeals court decision would not be expected until early summer, and the injunction will stay in effect at least until then.