WASHINGTON – Children brought illegally to New Mexico and other states by their parents can still seek renewal of their legal status after the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected the Trump administration’s request that it speed consideration of a lower court order that forced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, to remain in place.
The DACA program was created through an executive order by then-President Barack Obama in 2012. It was set to expire next week under an order signed by President Donald Trump in September aimed at forcing Congress to address the issue.
About 800,000 of these so-called Dreamers are living in the United States, including about 7,000 in New Mexico, according to estimates. The DACA program allows Dreamers to gain legal status and avoid deportation while also obtaining work permits.
A federal judge in San Francisco on Jan. 9 ordered the Trump administration to continue processing DACA renewal applications, despite its plan to cancel the program. But the administration is not required to continue accepting new applications under the District Court order.
The Supreme Court’s announcement Monday means the case will proceed to a federal appeals court. In a brief, unsigned comment Monday, the justices said they assume “the court of appeals will proceed expeditiously to decide this case.”
It’s extremely rare for the Supreme Court to take up a case without a review first by an appellate court. It has traditionally done so only when there was a case of monumental national importance, such as the Iranian hostage crisis or President Richard Nixon’s White House tapes controversy.
Dreamers and their advocates in New Mexico and Washington cheered the court’s DACA decision Monday. But a White House spokesman released a statement reiterating the president’s view that the DACA program is illegal. Meanwhile, advocates on both sides of the issue continued to press Congress to deal with the issue legislatively.
“The DACA program – which provides work permits and myriad government benefits to illegal immigrants en masse – is clearly unlawful,” said Raj Shah, principal deputy press secretary at the White House. “The district judge’s decision unilaterally to reimpose a program that Congress had explicitly and repeatedly rejected is a usurpation of legislative authority. The fact that this occurs at a time when elected representatives in Congress are actively debating this policy only underscores that the district judge has unwisely intervened in the legislative process. We look forward to having this case expeditiously heard by the appeals court and, if necessary, the Supreme Court, where we fully expect to prevail.”
Gabriela Hernandez, executive director of the New Mexico Dream Team and Southwest Regional Organizer for United We Dream, both of which advocate on behalf of Dreamers, called the court decision “great news.”
“This is great news for all undocumented youth dreading the March 5 deadline,” Hernandez said. “However, now more than ever, we need a permanent legislative solution that ensures the safety and well-being of young immigrants nationwide. Now is the time to call your members of Congress and demand a Dream Act.”
Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a New Mexico Democrat who is chairwoman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said the decision shouldn’t reduce pressure on Congress to find a long-term solution for Dreamers.
“DACA recipients will continue to face uncertainty until Republicans and Trump can agree to a fair and narrow bipartisan solution for Dreamers,” Lujan Grisham said. “Not only do nearly 9 in 10 Americans believe that Dreamers should stay in the United States, but so do employers, universities, military and law enforcement officials, and the faith community.
“A narrow, bipartisan bill that offers an earned path to citizenship and certainty for Dreamers who are dutifully contributing to our nation has the votes to pass Congress,” she said.
Lujan Grisham and most other Democrats in Congress want to codify DACA permanently and provide Dreamers with an expedited path to citizenship. Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., has proposed legislation that would allow Dreamers to apply for legal status lasting for a decade, at the end of which they would have to seek a renewal to stay in the U.S. legally unless they had achieved citizenship through normal channels.