The chief of Homeland Security said Sunday that the Obama-era DACA deportation amnesty program for “Dreamers” is still illegal, and the department will try again to cancel it, after the Supreme Court last week shot down a previous attempt to do so.
Acting Secretary Chad F. Wolf said the 650,000 people currently protected by the program will not be deported, and can have their permits renewed, just as most of them have done during the three-year legal battle over the phaseout attempt.
But he said DACA, created by a Homeland Security memo in 2012, is not legal and he said President Trump has asked him to “wind down this program.”
“We’re not going to continue to operate an unlawful program,” he told CBS’s “Face the Nation” program.
The high court, in a sharply divided 5-4 ruling on Thursday, said the Trump team’s 2017 attempt to phase out DACA cut too many corners. In particular, wrote Justice John G. Roberts Jr. in the key opinion, the administration didn’t take into account the situation of the hundreds of thousands of Dreamers, immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children, who relied on the Obama administration’s promises of protection.
Chief Justice Roberts said the president has the power to unwind the program, but must follow key procedural steps. The high court never said DACA was legal — just that the phaseout was done illegally.
Writing in dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas pointed out that the majority’s decision creates the bizarre situation where a program created illegally by an executive branch memo could not be ended the same way.
Mr. Trump, at his first campaign rally since coronavirus struck, cast the ruling as a victory.
“We actually won,” he said Saturday night, putting a positive spin on the high court’s severe scolding.
A day earlier, on Twitter, he said the chief justice “punted” on the issue by sending it back to Homeland Security for a do-over, and he said he’ll take that invitation.
“We will be submitting enhanced papers shortly in order to properly fulfil[sic] the Supreme Court’s ruling & request of yesterday,” Mr. Trump tweeted Friday.
He said he’s been trying to strike a deal with congressional Democrats to give DACA recipients a more permanent legal status, but said they’ve refused to negotiate with him. He has sought to couple a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers with border wall funding and restrictions on legal immigration, but Democrats say his offer on Dreamers is too stingy and his other asks are too much.
“They have abandoned DACA,” Mr. Trump tweeted. “Based on the decision the Dems can’t make DACA citizens. They gained nothing!”
Senate Democrats, led by Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois, fired off a letter complaining that it was Mr. Trump who was refusing to accept a legalization bill from Congress without strings. And they urged Mr. Trump not to try another phaseout.
They said the high court had ruled it was “well within your executive authority to protect Dreamers” — something that the justices did not actually say — and said the president should not only reopen the program, but expand it to allow for new applications.
“Only Congress can provide a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, but it is up to you whether to use your administration’s authority to allow these young immigrants who have benefited America in countless ways to continue contributing to our nation, or to continue your efforts to deport them,” the senators wrote.
The question of new applications will soon come to a head.
Since the legal battle over the phaseout began, the Trump administration — under court order — has been processing renewals for people already in the DACA program, granting them two-year extensions. But it has refused to process new applications.
In the wake of the court’s ruling last week at least one immigrant-rights group filed a new application, looking to challenge that roadblock.
Mr. Wolf, in the CBS interview Sunday, suggested that won’t be allowed.
“We’ll continue the program as we have over the past two years, continuing to renew those,” he said.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the official name of DACA, was created by President Obama in 2012 and grants a stay of deportation and work permits to immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children. The permits last two years, but can be renewed.
— Dave Boyer contributed to this report.