On June 18, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Trump administration’s attempt to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was unlawful and must be vacated.

  • DACA was created under the Obama administration in 2012. President Trump announced the termination of the program in September 2017, but federal court injunctions prevented the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from fully terminating the program.
  • The ruling invalidates the administration’s termination of DACA, which means the program will continue unless properly terminated. DACA beneficiaries may continue to renew their Employment Authorization Documents (EADs).
  • Though today’s ruling is a significant victory for Dreamers, the Court reinforced the position that DHS may legally terminate the program. This means the ruling is best viewed as a procedural delay that pauses changes to the program and places the issue before the voters in the 2020 election.
  • DHS has not yet issued any guidance regarding acceptance of initial applications from individuals who have not previously been granted DACA.


What is the immediate impact of the ruling?

In the near term, the ruling prevents the administration from ending the DACA program. Before the ruling, DHS was required to continue accepting renewal applications from individuals who had previously been granted DACA, but not new applications. The ruling means DHS will have to continue accepting renewal applications from DACA beneficiaries.

Will the government start accepting initial applications?

The ruling will likely require DHS to begin accepting initial DACA applications. However, it remains unclear whether this can happen immediately, or if additional procedural steps must be taken in the lower courts. DHS is expected to issue further guidance on this issue in the coming days.

Is the government allowed to terminate DACA?

Yes. The parties to the lawsuits, and the Supreme Court, agree that DHS had authority to terminate the program. However, the Court concluded that the termination was subject to review under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The subject of the lawsuit was whether the agency followed the proper procedure. The Court ruled that the agency violated the APA in its termination of the program.

Will the administration try again to end DACA?

Shortly after the decision was released, President Trump tweeted, “I am asking for a legal solution on DACA, not a political one, consistent with the rule of law. The Supreme Court is not willing to give us one, so now we have to start this process all over again.” DHS could attempt to address the Court’s concerns and end the program in a different manner, but few are confident that the administration could achieve that result prior to the election.

Will Congress find a permanent legislative solution?

Only Congress has authority to provide a permanent solution for Dreamers that offers legal status in the U.S., and stakeholders have been encouraging lawmakers for years to find a bipartisan solution. It is impossible to predict at this time whether Congress will pass a law that grants some form of relief from removal to DACA beneficiaries, particularly in an election year.

Copyright ©2020 Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. Government immigration agencies often change their policies and practices without notice. This document does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. Version: June 18, 2020.