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U.S. Supreme Court reprieves DACA

| Apr 5, 2018

If you are one of the many New Jersey undocumented immigrants enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, you undoubtedly know that DACA was set to expire last month, and you feared what would happen to you when it did. While you may still have some legitimate concerns about your immigration status, DACA did not expire thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Despite heated debate, Congress did not devise a way to extend DACA. Republicans backed a bill including immigration enforcement and border security, while Democrats backed a “DACA-only” bill. The debate became so heated that the federal government shut down in January for three days.

California lawsuit

With Congress at an impasse and time running out for DACA, California and several of its cities and universities filed a lawsuit against the Department of Justice in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. They asked the court to order an extension of the DACA program. The court did so, and the DOJ appealed the ruling directly to the U.S. Supreme Court. However, SCOTUS refused to hear the case on February 26, 2018.

DACA’s uncertain future

The Supreme Court’s refusal to hear this case means that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision stands and DACA did not expire. But for how long? That is the lingering question. SCOTUS did not address the 9th Circuit’s ruling per se. It merely said that the case must go through “regular judicial channels” rather than directly to the Supreme Court.

Court watchers predict that the Department of Justice will file a “proper” appeal and that the case will not wend its way back to the Supreme Court until sometime after its 2018 term begins in October. Thus, DACA is safe at least until then.

New York’s 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals heard a similar case and likewise ruled against the Trump administration’s efforts to let DACA expire. It is possible that SCOTUS will hear the New York and California cases together, but this is unlikely to happen until sometime well after October.

So for at least the next eight months or so, you and the other 700,000 DACA enrollees and 3.6 million DREAMers can breathe a little easier. It is highly unlikely that ICE officials will swoop down on you and deport you while the entire DACA issue remains up in the air.