The NCSL Blog


By Lisa Soronen

The Supreme Court will not be involved in the DACA litigation—for now. 

Rep. Ruben Kihuen, D-Nev., helps leads immigrants and supporters as they march on the Las Vegas Strip during a rally to oppose President Trump's decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program on Sept. 10, 2017. (Photo: Ethan Miller, Getty Images)The Court denied the Trump administration’s request for it to review a California federal district court decision temporarily putting the administration’s decision to terminate DACA on hold.

To get relief, the Trump administration must now appeal the district court decision to the Ninth Circuit. The Trump administration had asked the Supreme Court to get involved in this case before the Ninth Circuit had a chance to rule. The Supreme Court does not usually rule on federal district court decisions.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was established through a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Memorandum during the Obama presidency. The program allowed undocumented persons who arrived in the United States before age 16 and have lived here since June 15, 2007, to stay, work, and go to school in the United States without facing the risk of deportation for two years with renewals available.

DHS rescinded DACA last September after receiving a letter from the attorney general stating the program was unconstitutional and created “without proper statutory authority.”

In January a California federal district court issued a temporary nationwide injunction requiring the Trump administration to maintain much of the DACA program. Four states (California, Maine, Maryland, and Minnesota) and two local governments (San Jose and Santa Clara counties in California) are among the plaintiffs who sued DHS in this case.

The federal Administrative Procedures Act prevents federal agencies from taking actions which are not “otherwise in accordance with law.” The district court acknowledged that DHS has the authority to terminate DACA on policy grounds. But what it can’t do make a decision based on a “flawed legal premise.” The attorney general’s conclusion that DACA was unconstitutional and lacked a basis in statutory authority was a “flawed legal premise” according to the court.

Earlier this month a federal district court in New York issued a similar temporary nationwide injunction temporarily preventing the Trump administration from ending DACA. The courts’ reasoning in both decisions is similar. New York and 15 other states brought the case decided by the New York court.    

Lisa Soronen is executive director of the State and Local Legal Center and is a frequent contributor to the NCSL Blog on judicial issues.

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This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.