WASHINGTON: The US Supreme Court dealt President Donald Trump’s efforts to choke off immigration a fresh blow on Thursday when it rejected his cancellation of the DACA programme protecting 700,000 “Dreamers,” undocumented migrants brought to the United States as children.
The high court said Trump’s 2017 move to cancel his predecessor Barack Obama’s landmark Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme was “arbitrary and capricious” under government administrative procedures.
The judgement on a five-to-four vote, with Chief Justice John Roberts siding with the court’s four liberal members, stressed that it was not an assessment of the correctness of the 2012 DACA programme itself.
Instead, they said the Trump administration had violated official government procedures in the way they sought to quickly rescind DACA in September 2017 based on weak legal justifications.
The ruling suggested there are legal administrative methods Trump could cancel DACA, putting the onus back on the administration if it wants to pursue the issue.
Immigration champions and Dreamers cheered the narrow ruling.
“Eight years ago this week, we protected young people who were raised as part of our American family from deportation,” Obama tweeted. “Today, I’m happy for them, their families, and all of us. We may look different and come from everywhere, but what makes us American are our shared ideals.”
Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the ruling prolonged the life of a programme she said was supported by three-quarters of Americans, Democrats and Republicans alike.
On Twitter, Trump turned the decision into a call to support him in the November presidential election so that he can appoint more conservative justices to the high court.
“These horrible & politically charged decisions coming out of the Supreme Court are shotgun blasts into the face of people that are proud to call themselves Republicans or Conservatives,” Trump wrote.
“We need more Justices or we will lose our 2nd. Amendment & everything else. Vote Trump 2020!”
The decision came three and a half years after Trump entered office promising to halt almost all immigration and to expel the more than 10 million people estimated living in the country, many for decades, without legal immigration documents.
The Obama administration had sought to address this issue in 2012 with the DACA policy offering protection at renewable two-year periods, including authorisation to work, to people brought into the United States illegally as children and then growing up here.