As Supreme Court takes up DACA, ‘Dreamers’ hope for another temporary reprieve

JUDY WOODRUFF: The United States Supreme Court
has heard the legal case, and now hundreds of thousands of young immigrants will wait
to learn their fate. They are the so-called dreamers, brought to
the U.S. illegally as children. At issue is President Trump’s move to end
DACA, the Obama era program that protects them against deportation. Amna Nawaz begins our coverage. AMNA NAWAZ: Hundreds of young immigrants rallied
outside the Supreme Court this morning. JOSE ARNULFO CABRERA, DACA Recipient: I’m
coming here to make sure that the justices know that they have to stay on the side of
justice today. AMNA NAWAZ: DACA recipients were anxious as
justices inside heard arguments that could decide their fate. MARISSA MOLINA, DACA Recipient: DACA has been
an opportunity to liberate our passions, unleash our dreams and use them for the good of our
community and the country that we all call home. AMNA NAWAZ: DACA, formally known as Deferred
Action For Childhood Arrivals, is shielding roughly 700,000 so-called dreamers from deportation. JEFF SESSIONS, Former U.S. Attorney General:
To have a lawful system of immigration that serves the national interest, we cannot admit
everyone who would like to come here. AMNA NAWAZ: The Trump administration attempted
to end the program in 2017, but was prevented from doing so by lower courts. And, today, justices heard arguments on the
legality of that decision. The administration says President Barack Obama
exceeded his constitutional powers when he created the program. Plaintiffs say the administration has failed
to give adequate reasons for ending it. The program protects immigrants who arrived
to the country at a young age before June 2007, are enrolled in school or have a GED,
and have no criminal record. President Trump vowed to end the program during
his 2016 campaign, then showed sympathy for dreamers soon after taking office. DONALD TRUMP, President of the United States:
We’re going to show great heart. DACA is a very, very difficult subject for
me, I will tell you. To me, it’s one of the most difficult subjects
I have, because you have these incredible kids, in many cases, not in all cases. AMNA NAWAZ: But on Twitter today, he wrote
DACA recipients were — quote — “far from angels,” calling some tough, hardened criminals. Democrats decried Mr. Trump’s words and called
for justices to side with the young immigrants. REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D-TX): And despite the president’s
attempts to slander them, to speak ill about who they are and what they represent, these
folks are among the very best that America has to offer. AMNA NAWAZ: The decision is expected by next
June. And now let’s take a closer look at the arguments
inside the court with Marcia Coyle of “The National Law Journal,” who was at the court
today, and Theresa Cardinal Brown, director of immigration and cross-border policy at
the Bipartisan Policy Center. Marcia and Theresa, welcome back to you both. THERESA CARDINAL BROWN, Bipartisan Policy
Center: Thank you. MARCIA COYLE, “The National Law Journal”:
Glad to be here. AMNA NAWAZ: Marcia, let me start with you. Now, it’s a big issue, obviously, but one
the justices could look at narrowly potentially. What is the central question or questions
they’re seeking to answer here? MARCIA COYLE: OK, there are really two questions
that they were wrestling with today. The first one has to do with whether, as a
court, they actually have the authority to review the decision to rescind or terminate
the DACA program. And the second question has to do with whether,
if they do have the power to review it, was that decision is legal, or did it, as the
lower courts have held, violate the Administrative Procedures Act, which we may remember was
figured last term in the census citizenship case. It requires agencies to give a reasoned explanation
for the decisions they make. And, in this case, the lower courts said,
uh-uh, Trump administration, you didn’t give reasoned explanations. AMNA NAWAZ: And so, very basically, the plaintiffs
are saying,you didn’t give us a reason. You have to do that. What is the government’s argument in this
case? MARCIA COYLE: The government is saying, first
of all, that there is no authority to review what they have done here, that this is a decision
to either enforce or not enforce a federal law, and that’s a discretionary decision committed
to each agency, unless there is a law that says otherwise. On the legality of their decision, they claim
that they gave adequate reasons. They had concerns about the legally. In fact, in 2017, then Attorney General Jeff
Sessions said the program is illegal. And they also have a general opposition to
non-enforcement of federal law, here, non-enforcement of federal immigration law against hundreds
of thousands of undocumented immigrants. AMNA NAWAZ: Theresa, let me ask you about
that. We’re talking about roughly 700,000 people,
as we just laid out in the piece. What is important to know about that population,
especially in light of what the president tweeted earlier today about many of them being
hardened criminals? And what’s the potential impact of the Supreme
Court decision here? THERESA CARDINAL BROWN: Sure. So with regard to the president’s tweet, first
of all, it should be noted that, in order to get DACA status under the program rules,
you can’t have a felony conviction or more than three misdemeanors. So the idea that those who got DACA are somehow
full of criminals, that is patently incorrect. But these are people who, by the designation
of DACA, have been in the United States for — since they were children, under 16 years
of age. They have not committed crimes, and they have
signed up for protection from deportation and work authorization. And so this population are people who have
grown up in the United States for the most part. They have American values. They think of themselves as American in every
way. Since they have gotten this status and the
ability to work, many of them have graduated college. They are now professionals, and doctors and
lawyers. They have made plans. They have bought homes and had families. And so the effect of the Supreme Court decision,
if it were to agree with the administration in terminating the program, would mean that
they would lose that status at the end of their current period, and then all of that
would be in jeopardy. And that’s one of the reasons why you saw
so many other parties engaging in this debate, businesses that are employing DACA individuals. One of the cases was filed by the University
of California and supported by a lot of universities who have DACA students. So there’s a lot of the economy, if you will,
and communities surrounding these students that are supporting them. AMNA NAWAZ: Marcia, let’s look at some of
the moments from inside that court today. There was this one moment from Justice Sotomayor. She referenced President Trump’s shifting
views on this, as he’s articulated it. And she said this: “The president telling
DACA-eligible people that they were safe under him, that he would find a way to keep them
here. And so he hasn’t, and, instead, he’s done
this. And that, I think, has something to be considered
before you rescind the policy.” What does this tell us about how some of the
more liberal justices are viewing this vs. some of the more conservative ones? MARCIA COYLE: Well, first of all, what she
was referring to was a key aspect of the argument today. And that is the reliance that the dreamers
have built up in a program that’s been in existence since 2012. And she and even Justice Breyer pointed out
there are lots of reliance interests, not just the dreamers’ reline, but, as Theresa
said, businesses have filed amicus briefs saying their employees are dreamers. Medical institutions, health organizations,
educational institutions all have shown how they have relied on dreamers in different
respects. Justice Sotomayor was saying that that reliance
is a key aspect of determining whether the administration gave adequate reasons for deciding
to end the program. Did they consider reliance in-depth, as they
should? The liberals on the court, they seem to feel
that, no, the administration didn’t give adequate consideration of that. The government says, in opposition, we did,
and here are two memos that show that reliance was considered, along with other considerations. That is a clear divide here. And how it will figure into an ultimate decision,
we will have to wait and see. AMNA NAWAZ: Theresa, there’s another moment
in which Justice Gorsuch seemed to say that this continuing legal battle, the fact that
this is still a question before the courts, is complicating a potential political solution. Here’s what he had to say — quote — “It
would leave this class of persons into a continuing cloud of uncertainty and continued status
in the political branches, because they would not have a baseline rule of decision from
this court on this issue.” Is there even a political solution in the
mix in Congress? THERESA CARDINAL BROWN: Well, what I would
say is, first and foremost, we have to understand that the best outcome for DACA recipients
at the end of this court case is another temporary reprieve. If the Supreme Court were to rule that the
administration didn’t terminate the program appropriately, that doesn’t mean the program
won’t be terminated. It just means the administration can go back
and re-terminate it under the rules that this court sets out. And this administration has indicated it wants
to terminate the program. So I think that his question is about continuing
to litigate this, and does that actually give any certainty? And the answer is, it doesn’t. The only certainty can come from Congress. The courts cannot give these people permanent
status. Even the DACA program itself wasn’t permanent
status. That has to come from Congress. And Congress doesn’t have to wait for a court
decision to act. They could go right now. They have tried. The president, when he announced the ending
of the program in 2017, said he wanted to give Congress time to act. The House and the Senate considered bills
in 2017 and 2018, failed to come to agreement with the president. And it didn’t happen. So now I think it does turn back to Congress. If this is going to be settled in a permanent
way, it has to come from there. AMNA NAWAZ: Marcia, based on what you heard
today, do you have a sense of which way the court is leaning? MARCIA COYLE: Well, I never like to predict,
but my sense was that there is not a fifth vote for the dreamers in this case. AMNA NAWAZ: Marcia Coyle of “The National
Law Journal” and Theresa Cardinal Brown of the Bipartisan Policy Center, thanks for being
here. MARCIA COYLE: My pleasure. THERESA CARDINAL BROWN: You’re welcome.

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