Recent Updates on the Status of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program

November 16, 2018

On November 8, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals blocked the Trump administration's attempt at ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. In response, the Department of Justice asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case, which, if the court agrees, could settle as soon as June 2019.

Created in 2012, the DACA program was instituted through an Executive Order by former President Obama to shield certain undocumented children brought to the United States unlawfully from being deported. The program also grants recipients two-year work authorization, subject to renewal. To date, almost 700,000 people across the United States have been granted DACA status.

The Trump administration has attempted to end the program, issuing its own Executive Order in September 2017. However, lower courts have continued to block the administration from doing so. Even before the Ninth Circuit issued its ruling, the administration took the unusual step of filing a request with the Supreme Court to review DACA cases. Although the Supreme Court denied the administration's request in the past, in light of the recent appeals court ruling, it now seems likely that the Supreme Court will take up the DACA issue. While the appeals continue, the Court has ruled that DACA recipients will remain protected under the program.

In another significant judicial decision, on February 26, 2018, the Supreme Court rejected the administration's request to delay the upcoming trial over the inclusion of a citizenship question on the 2020 U.S. census questionnaire. The trial is part of an ongoing lawsuit brought by a number of states and civil rights organizations challenging Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross' decision to include a question on the next U.S. census asking respondents whether they are American citizens.

U.S. census figures determine where billions of dollars in federal funds are spent and how the House of Representatives and other political districts are remapped to reflect population changes. While Secretary Ross claims that the question will "help the government enforce Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act," which prohibits states and local governments from imposing any voting law resulting in discrimination against racial or language minorities, census bureau experts say the question would deter immigrants from responding, resulting in undercounting in communities with large immigrant populations.

The administration has made several attempts to delay court proceedings and prevent its adversaries from questioning Secretary Ross and other officials about their motivations in adding the question. Though the Supreme Court has temporarily blocked opposing counsel from questioning Secretary Ross under oath, the trial commenced as scheduled on November 5 at a U.S. District Court in New York.

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