The U.S. Supreme Court Monday declined to review a lower court ruling requiring the federal government to continue administering the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
The decision is a blow to the Trump administration, which hopes to solidify its prerogative to revoke DACA as soon as possible.
“It is assumed that the Court of Appeals will proceed expeditiously to decide this case,” the Court’s Monday morning orders read, a strong sign the justices will take the case at some point in the future.
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Judge William Alsup of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California barred the administration from terminating DACA in January. Alsup concluded its rescission was based on a flawed legal premise, rendering the decision “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, [and] otherwise not in accordance with law.”
In an extraordinary procedural move, the government appealed directly to the Supreme Court. Under normal procedure, the government would challenge Alsup’s order at the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a principal antagonist to Trump’s ambitions throughout his presidency. Solicitor General Noel Francisco, the government’s Supreme Court lawyer, argued the case required the tribunal’s urgent attention, as Alsup’s decision “requires the government to sanction indefinitely an ongoing violation of federal law being committed by nearly 700,000 aliens.”
The justices rarely grant such requests.
The petition was also a long shot as a matter of timing. At this juncture of the year, scheduling constraints weigh heavily on the docket. The Court adjourns in late June, and the agenda for a given term is generally set by January. As such, it would be quite unusual for the justices to schedule another case for the current term at this late moment.
The Court signaled throughout the last week that it would not grant the government’s request. The Court had two scheduled opportunities to announce a decision respecting the petition, but remained silent each time, a strong sign it would reject the appeal.
All told, Monday’s decision was not a surprising development.
The decision does not exhaust the Trump administration’s options. Instead, it will revert to normal appellate procedure and ask the 9th Circuit to overturn Alsup’s ruling. If the 9th Circuit declines to do so, the government may then petition the Supreme Court.
“The fact that [Alsup’s order] 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,” deputy White House Press Secretary Raj Shah said shortly after Monday’s decision. “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.”
The decision casts further uncertainty upon the 680,000 DACA recipients currently inside U.S. borders. The prospect of a legislative solution to their predicament is currently rather thin, making the judiciary the most likely venue for a decision as to their future.
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