June 18 (UPI) -- The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday ruled against a bid by the Trump administration to terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protects children of undocumented migrants in the United States.
The high court was split 5-4 on the ruling. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority that a 2017 decision by the Department of Homeland Security to end the program was arbitrary and capricious and illegal under the federal Administrative Procedure Act.
He wrote the administration's bid to end DACA "infringed on the equal protection guarantee of the Fifth Amendment's Due Process Clause," and agreed with a lower court finding that DHS failed to explain the rationale behind cutting the program.
The majority said DHS didn't first consider cutting work permits given DACA recipients without ending the program entirely -- and failed to recognize how important the program is to those in the program, called "Dreamers."
"The agency failed to consider the conspicuous issues of whether to retain forbearance and what if anything to do about the hardship to DACA recipients," Roberts wrote. "That dual failure raises doubts about whether the agency appreciated the scope of its discretion or exercised that discretion in a reasonable manner.
"The appropriate recourse is therefore to remand to DHS so that it may consider the problem anew."
Roberts joined justices Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan in the majority opinion.
Associate Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch voted to let the administration end the program. They criticized the ruling as "an effort to avoid a politically controversial but legally correct decision."
The decision is a significant defeat for one of President Donald Trump's signature issues.
"Trump's decision to end DACA was one of the ugliest and cruelest decisions ever made by a president in modern history," Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders tweeted. "He lost. Congratulations to DREAMers and all who fought to make this enormous victory possible."
"Lady Liberty stands tall today," Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez said in a statement. "This is a stunning victory. A victory of humanity over hatred, of American values over Trump's immigrant-bashing scare tactics."
The DACA program began in 2012 to provide temporary relief from deportation for children brought to the United States by undocumented parents. It also allows them to work, especially in healthcare fields, where they are now needed to help fight the coronavirus pandemic, a supplemental brief filed by the Dreamers' attorneys in March said.
"Healthcare providers on the front lines of our nation's fight against COVID-19 rely significantly upon DACA recipients to perform essential work," they wrote, citing approximately 27,000 DACA working the in healthcare field as "nurses, dentists, pharmacists, physician assistants, home health aides, technicians and other staff."
Protesters rally against DACA repeal
Demonstrators protest President Donald Trump's decision to end the DACA program outside the Justice Department in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. Photo by Erin Schaff/UPI | License Photo