The Supreme Court will not issue its decision until 2020, in the middle of the presidential campaign.
The US Supreme Court is considering this Tuesday the fate of nearly 700,000 young migrants, protected since 2012 from expulsion by a program whose legality is being questioned by Donald Trump.
The adoption by the administration of Democratic President Barack Obama of this program called DACA had regularized the situation of thousands of young people – nicknamed “Dreamers” – who arrived during their childhood, while their parents had entered the United States illegally.
Republican President Donald Trump, who has made the fight against illegal immigration one of his main concerns, decided in 2017 to end the DACA programme, declaring it “illegal”. However, he says he is open to an agreement with the Democratic opposition so that these migrants can stay in the United States. Faced with the stakes, some of them insisted on being present before the high court on Tuesday. “I’m really worried,” confided Jose, 26, who came from Mexico at the age of 8.
“President Obama said he had no legal right to sign the order (establishing the DACA program), but that he would do it anyway,” the billionaire tweeted this morning before the hearing began. “Many of the younger beneficiaries of DACA are far from being angels. Some are hardened criminals,” he continued, leaving the door open for an agreement with the Democrats, so that the Dreamers “can stay” if the highest court in the United States were to sound the death knell for the program.
The Supreme Court will not issue its decision until 2020, in the middle of the presidential campaign. If she agrees with Donald Trump, the Dreamers will not necessarily be expelled, but they will become undocumented again, with the complications that this status implies.
Meanwhile, “we’re like on a roller coaster,” said Angelica Villalobos, a 34-year-old Mexican woman with five American children who works in an Oklahoma garage. With her husband, who also arrived in the United States before she turned 16 through illegal channels, she told their children about the “possible consequences” of the Supreme Court’s decision. “Maybe we won’t be able to work or drive anymore, all the things that make us a normal family,” she regrets.
“Currency of exchange”
Like them, nearly 700,000 young migrants “have spent at least the last twelve years in our country, are part of our communities, our institutions,” notes Omar Jadwat, of the powerful freedom association ACLU. For him, the Trump administration “hastily ended the DACA program (…) by deciding that it was illegal” because he wanted to use these Dreamers as “bargaining chips” with his democratic opposition.
In fact, Donald Trump tried in vain to obtain funds to build a wall on the southern border of the United States in exchange for new protections for these young people, who often have little or no memory of their country of origin. US administrative law requires the government to justify its decisions with reasonable arguments. However, the courts have so far ruled that the termination of the DACA program was decided in a “arbitrary and capricious” manner.
“We think we have explained our decision adequately,” replied Noel Francisco, who represents the government before the Supreme Court. “We acted legally and rationally,” he added at a conference in September.
“Winning on all fronts”
For Tom Goldstein, a Supreme Court lawyer, “if the president had said,’I don’t like the program, I’m stopping it’, we wouldn’t be where we are today”. But according to the lawyer, “he tried to win on all fronts, saying that the Dreamers were nice to him, but also had no choice but to withdraw the DACA program because it was illegal”, which he must prove today.
Beyond the stakes for these migrants, the issue is therefore also “of great importance for the president’s powers,” notes Steven Schwinn, professor of law at the University of Chicago. In its decision, the Court could extend the discretionary powers of the White House tenant by allowing him to make or break a policy without explanation.
This did not escape the attention of the main interested party. Asserting on Twitter that Barack Obama was not allowed to sign the DACA program, Donald Trump said in October that, “if the Supreme Court allowed the program to remain in place, it would give extraordinary powers to the president.