WASHINGTON (CN) – The Supreme Court took up a challenge Friday over the termination of DACA, an Obama-era program that deferred deportation for qualifying young immigrants who lack documentation.
In move that Republicans roundly criticized as an executive branch overstep, President Barack Obama used an executive order to implement DACA in 2012 after Congress deadlocked on a bill that created a similar program.
Short for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the program allowed undocumented people who were brought to the United States as children to remain in the country after passing a background check and meeting certain other conditions. Program beneficiaries could renew their status every two years and could be eligible for a work permit.
Obama later expanded the program through Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA. That program gave protection from deportation to parents whose children were U.S. citizens or had green cards. It too drew immediate court challenge from a group of states led by Texas.
DAPA ultimately never took effect after the Supreme Court upheld an injunction against it. That litigation proved fateful to the initial version of DACA as well, as shortly after President Donald Trump took office, the group of states that brought the DAPA suit threatened to add the original program to their complaint.
The Trump administration opted to rescind DACA rather than face the suit, but that decision, too, drew a slew of court challenges.
Even as the administration sought to take the case directly to the Supreme Court, bypassing an intermediate appeals court, the Ninth Circuit upheld an injunction against the program in November.
Meanwhile in Manhattan, a federal judge issued a separate injunction in a pair of lawsuits brought by a group of states led by New York and people who benefitted from the program. The Second Circuit heard oral arguments in the case in January.
The Supreme Court consolidated these two cases for review along with a third suit by the NAACP and a collection of unions and companies. In this third case, a federal judge in Washington, D.C., found in April that the administration did not follow the proper procedures when winding down the program, in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act. The D.C. Circuit heard arguments in the challenge in February.
The Fourth Circuit has also issued an injunction against the administration in a case out of Maryland challenging the decision.
Per its custom, the Supreme Court did not issue any comment Friday in taking up the case.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said his office is looking forward to arguing the case before the high court.
“DACA reflects our nation’s commitment to helping hardworking people and creates hope and opportunity for a new generation – many of whom were brought to our country as toddlers,” Becerra said in a statement Friday. “So far, both lower courts in our legal fight to protect DACA have agreed with us that the Trump administration’s attempt to end it was unlawful.”
The Justice Department did not immediately return a request for comment.
Joining Becerra’s legal team in the California case are Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, which represents a group of people who benefitted from the program, and Robert Long with the firm Covington & Burling, who represents the University of California.
Gibson Dunn’s Ethan Dettmer said the courts that have blocked the DACA withdrawal were right to do so.
“DACA was a promise by the government to our clients and to hundreds of thousands of other Dreamers across America,” Dettmer said in a statement Friday. “That promise is that if they played by the rules and if they came forward and gave the government sensitive personal information, then they would be protected from removal from the only country most of them have ever known as home.”
Microsoft, which is part of the Washington, D.C., case, said in a statement Friday that the decision puts pressure on Congress to pass a bill writing the DACA program into law.
“Dreamers make our country, community and company stronger and their protection is both a humanitarian obligation and an economic imperative,” Microsoft President Brad Smith said in a statement. “Today’s decision means the clock is now running, with even more reason for Congress to act.”
Lindsay Harrison, with the firm Jenner & Block, represents the plaintiffs in the case in Washington, which also includes Princeton.