The US Supreme Court on Thursday dealt a President Donald Trump a major setback on his hardline immigration policies, ruling against his bid to end a programme that protects from deportation 650,000 immigrants, dubbed 'Dreamers', who entered the United States as children without documentation.
The justices upheld lower court rulings that found that Trump's 2017 move to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, created in 2012 by his Democratic predecessor Barack Obama, was unlawful.More: Rights groups slam US plan to collect DNA from migrants 'Repugnant': US judge blocks Trump immigration rule US extends protected status for Salvadorans by a year
Those who receive relief through the plan are typically called "Dreamers" by advocates and commentators alike, after the US Congressional DREAM act legislation that took up their cause.
The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) moved to end the program in September, 2017.
In its decision, the court wrote the "dispute before the Court is not whether DHS may rescind DACA. All parties agree that it may. The dispute is instead primarily about the procedure the agency followed in doing so."
However, the court concluded that the "total rescission" of DACA "was arbitrary and capricious."
For now, Dreamer immigrants retain their protection from deportation and their authorization to work in the United States.
The decision from Trump's DHS to end #DACA was ruled arbitrary and capricious under the Administrative Procedure Act by #SCOTUS!
Read opinion here: https://t.co/1FkbORQD2d
HomeIsHere and DREAMers are #HereToStay! pic.twitter.com/K83fAdLGM9
When Trump's administration moved to end the act, protests were organised against the move across the country with Dreamers and advocates calling for new legislation that would provide a path to citizenship.
US says 200,000 Salvadorans must leave within 18 months
The programme grants deportation relief and work permits - but not a path to citizenship - to 649,000 immigrants brought to the United States as children without documentation.Campaign concerns
The outcome seems certain to elevate the issue in Trump's re-elecion campaign, given the anti-immigrant rhetoric of his first presidential run in 2016 and immigration restrictions his administration has imposed since then.
The Biden campaign told Reuters in early June that dismantling DACA would backfire on Trump.
"Immigration is a unifying issue for Latinos," Biden campaign senior adviser Cristobal Alex said. "It doesn't matter if you're Puerto Rican, if you're born a citizen, you understand that attacks on Latinos based on immigration (are) really an attack on all Latinos."
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally in Charlotte, North Carolina [Carlos Barria/Reuters]
Any decision to end DACA could motivate Hispanic voters in pivotal states, said Stephen Nuno-Perez, director of communications for the Seattle-based political opinion firm Latino Decisions.
The firm's polling shows immigrant rights ranking among the top issues for Hispanic voters, just behind the government's response to the coronavirus pandemic, healthcare and economic matters.
Action by Trump to end DACA also could have helped convince undecided moderate, college-educated swing voters to choose Biden, even if they agree with Trump's economic message, according to Democratic pollster Nick Gourevitch of the New York City-based Global Strategy Group.
"Generally speaking, voters are pretty sympathetic to Dreamers," Gourevitch told Reuters, noting that about 27,000 DACA enrollees are working in healthcare jobs during the pandemic. "The president likes to pick a lot of immigration fights, but I think the DACA immigration fight is a bad one for him to be having."