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High Court’s DACA Inaction Leaves Program, Jobs Intact for Now

Jan. 22, 2019, 4:57 PM

The U.S. Supreme Court’s failure to decide whether to hear a case challenging the Trump administration’s ending of a program for young immigrants allows those immigrants to continue working for at least most of the rest of the year.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program has been kept alive for the past year by a handful of federal court orders. With no Supreme Court action likely until at least the fall, those orders will remain in place for most, if not all, of 2019.

Maintaining the status quo provides temporary relief for the businesses that employ DACA recipients. A Supreme Court finding that the program is invalid—the core of the administration’s reason for ending it—could mean the cancellation of some 700,000 work permits now held by DACA recipients.

The administration had hoped to settle the matter by June by skipping the federal appeals courts and going directly to the Supreme Court. A representative for the Homeland Security Department Jan. 22 declined to comment, while a representative for the Justice Department couldn’t be reached.

No Rush

“The apparent delay may simply be because some appellate courts have not yet ruled on DACA’s rescission,” Christopher Hajec, director of litigation for the Immigration Reform Law Institute, said Jan. 22. “What would be truly disturbing, from the perspective of patriotic immigration reform, is if the administration is seeking to speed things up hoping that the end of DACA will give congressional Democrats an incentive to exchange wall funding for a Dream Act,” he said in a statement provided to Bloomberg Law.

IRLI is the litigation affiliate of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which supports lower immigration levels.

“The Supreme Court was wise to delay action on the Trump Administration’s efforts to terminate DACA,” Todd Schulte, president of the pro-immigration group, said in a Jan. 22 statement. “There is no reason for the Court to consider these cases right now, on a rushed timeline, and before many lower courts have had a chance to consider the cases.”

Some 1,700 DACA recipients per business day would lose their jobs if the program were terminated when the administration originally planned in March 2018, according to a report from and the Center for American Progress. The effects would be felt most acutely in California and Texas, where the largest concentrations of DACA recipients live.

Those estimates are based on a phaseout of the program, under which jobs would be lost as DACA recipients’ two-year work permits expire. A final ruling that the program is invalid could mean a loss of all 700,000 work permits at once.

Businesses Support Program

DACA, launched nearly seven years ago by the Obama administration, provides deportation protection and work permits to young, undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. More than 823,000 immigrants have been approved, although not all have renewed their permits.

In the first five years of the program, some 91 percent of DACA recipients found gainful employment, according to a survey conducted by University of California, San Diego professor Tom Wong for the Center for American Progress.

That’s caused some businesses, such as IBM Corp., Microsoft Corp., Mozilla, and Marriott International Inc., and associations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable, and the American Hotel & Lodging Association to come out in favor of the program and legislation granting permanent legal status to DACA recipients.

On the other hand, removal of the DACA population from the legal workforce would decrease job competition for U.S. workers, especially those with lower skill levels, according to Steven Camarota of the Center for Immigration Studies.

Operating Under Court Order

Federal court orders have been keeping DACA alive.

The Justice Department earlier attempted to appeal directly to the Supreme Court from a federal district court in California, but the justices declined.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit later heard oral arguments in the appeal, but it took more than six months to issue a decision. Its decision upholding the lower court’s order came after the DOJ went back to the Supreme Court for a resolution.

The Second and District of Columbia circuits, the courts that would hear appeals from the other district court decisions, haven’t taken any action yet in those cases.

To contact the reporter on this story: Laura D. Francis in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Martha Mueller Neff at