3 ways the Supreme Court could decide DACA’s fate

The Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday on a trio of cases asking whether the Trump administration acted properly when it decided to wind down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program — an Obama-era program that allows unauthorized immigrants who were brought to the the US as children to live and work in the United States.

A question looms over tomorrow’s hearing, however: Why did the Supreme Court agree to hear these cases in the first place?

Certainly the human stakes in these cases — Trump v. NAACP, McAleenan v. Vidal, and Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California — are enormous. Almost 670,000 immigrants are protected by DACA. Ending the program opens them up to deportation. Families could be ripped apart; communities will be devastated. There really is a significant human toll here.

But the Supreme Court typically only hears cases that involve a significant legal question. Indeed, the Court’s own rules state that it will only agree to hear a case “for compelling reasons,” and they emphasize that the Court typically only hears “important” questions of federal law. In this instance, the legal issue at the heart of the case is tiny.

Let me explain: There’s actually little doubt that the Trump administration may wind down DACA if it wants. Indeed, one of the opinions now under review by the Supreme Court states outright that the administration “indisputably can end the DACA program.” The reason the administration is before the justices is that several lower courts held that the Trump administration acted improperly when it failed to adequately explain why it decided to wind down DACA.

As a general rule, the executive branch must provide a reasoned explanation when it seeks to make a policy change that falls within its lawful discretion. The lower courts held the Trump administration’s explanation of why it was ending DACA inadequate because the administration doesn’t explain why it thinks that DACA is bad policy.

By Ian Millhiser for V O X
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