What the Supreme Court ruling means for DACA recipients

FILE: Immigrants and supporters march in Los Angeles in September to oppose President Trump's decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
FILE: Immigrants and supporters march in Los Angeles in September to oppose President Trump's decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
David McNew/Getty Images

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The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected the Trump administration's request to hear its appeal of a California judge's ruling keeping the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in place for now.

The high court's decision is raising questions about what it means for DACA's future and how it affects the roughly 700,000 young unauthorized immigrants who still have temporary work permits and deportation protection through the program. Here are some answers:

Q: What does the Supreme Court's decision mean?

Last month, a federal district judge in San Francisco temporarily blocked President Trump's decision to end the DACA program on March 5. The Trump administration then asked the high court for an expedited review of that lower court ruling.

In this decision, the Supreme Court said no. The high court very rarely grants such requests. The administration will need to follow the normal appeals court route and take its arguments to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. If the administration is unhappy with the appellate court's decision, it can then appeal to the Supreme Court again.

Until that happens, the district court ruling remains in place and DACA recipients can continue to renew their work permits and deportation protections, although no new program applications will be accepted.

Lower courts in California and New York have not ruled on the merits of DACA but rather on whether the Trump administration acted legally in the way it rescinded the program. 

Q: Does the Supreme Court's decision mean that DACA keeps going past March 5?

Yes, for now. There have been two recent temporary court injunctions, including the one issued in California, that direct the government to continue taking DACA renewal applications.

When President Trump rescinded DACA in early September, DACA recipients whose status was set to expire before March 5 were given a one-month window to renew their status for a final time. Those whose DACA permits were set to expire after March 5 were not allowed to renew them.

As a result of the lower-court injunctions, any DACA recipient who is eligible to renew for another two years may do so. Immigration officials are required to process their applications.

Q: How long will DACA remain in place now?

That's unclear.

The federal appeals courts in California and New York, where the two lower court decisions were made, could ultimately rule in favor of the Trump administration. If so, the window for DACA renewals could then close. If they rule against the administration, the window could remain open longer as the cases move to the Supreme Court, as they are expected to do.

The Trump administration could seek other ways to end DACA. Several lawsuits, including the California case on which the lower court ruled, alleged that the administration's decision to rescind DACA violated the Administrative Procedures Act. The government could conceivably fix any alleged violations.

Q: Does the decision have any bearing on the immigration debate in Congress?

When President Trump rescinded DACA, he asked Congress to come up with a legislative solution to the young immigrants' fate by the March 5 deadline.

Since then, Trump has demanded several concessions in exchange for his support for a legislative solution, including money for a border wall and changes that would dramatically reduce the number of legal immigrants allowed into the country.

Lawmakers have attempted to come up with a compromise to let young unauthorized immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children stay legally, but none of the bills introduced have garnered enough support. Earlier this month, a series of measures were voted on in the Senate and failed to pass.

The high court's decision does buy more time for a legislative answer, at least while the court injunctions stand. Immigrant advocates are continuing to push Congress for a long-term path to legal status for DACA recipients.