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DACA: What they said – The cabinet, Trump, supporters, critics, Supreme Court

The Supreme Court issued a ruling Thursday that halts efforts by the Trump administration to eliminate the DACA program, and sent the matter to the Department of Homeland Security for further consideration. Credit: myamazingdiscoveries.com via wikimedia

By David Pendered

The Supreme Court ruling Thursday on the DACA case all but ensures immigration will be a major issue for the next president and Congress. Following are excerpts of comments by notable participants in the case decided 5-4, in a ruling in which Chief Justice John Roberts sided with four liberal justices and wrote for the majority.

The Supreme Court issued a ruling Thursday that halts efforts by the Trump administration to eliminate the DACA program, and sent the matter to the Department of Homeland Security for further consideration. Credit: myamazingdiscoveries.com via wikimedia

The DACA case began in 2012, when the Obama administration initiated efforts to protect children brought into the country illegally, and beyond their control, through a policy of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Litigation began after the Trump administration rescinded DACA in 2017.

Three cabinet officials issued orders that started, and halted, the program. This report begin with excerpts of those three orders, followed by comments issued Thursday by President Trump and other voices on both sides of the case. Excerpts of the Supreme Court ruling conclude the report.

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, June 15, 2012, establishing DACA

  • “By this memorandum, I am setting forth how, in the exercise of our prosecutorial discretion, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) should enforce the Nation’s immigration laws against certain young people who were brought to this country as children and know only this country as home. …
  • “Our Nation’s immigration laws must be enforced in a strong and sensible manner. They are not designed to be blindly enforced without consideration given to the individual circumstances of each case. …
  • “This memorandum confers no substantive right, immigration status or pathway to citizenship. Only the Congress, acting through its legislative authority, can confer these rights. It remains for the executive branch, however, to set forth policy for the exercise of discretion within the framework of the existing law. I have done so here.”

Attorney General Jefferson B. Sessions III, Sept. 4, 2017, rescinding DACA

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.)

Jeff Sessions

  • “I write to advise that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) should rescind the June 15, 2012, DHS Memorandum entitled ‘Exercising Prosecutorial Discretion with Respect to Individuals Who Came to the United States as Children,’ as well as any related memoranda or guidance. …
  • “DACA was effectuated by the previous administration through executive action, without proper statutory authority and with no established end-date, after Congress’ repeated rejection of proposed legislation that would have accomplished a similar result. Such an open-ended circumvention of immigration laws was an unconstitutional exercise of authority by the Executive Branch. …
  • “As Attorney General of the United States, I have a duty to defend the Constitution and to faithfully execute the laws passed by Congress. Proper enforcement of our immigration laws is, as President Trump consistently said, critical to the national interest and to the restoration of the rule of law in our country.”
  • (Sessions, now a candidate for U.S. Senate in Alabama, stated his position on the ruling. Those comments are in the Critics of the Ruling section.)

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine C. Duke, Sept. 5, 2017, rescinding DACA

  • “This memorandum rescinds the June 15, 2012 memorandum entitled ‘Exercising Prosecutorial Discretion with Respect to Individuals Who Came to the United States as Children,’ which established the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”). For the reasons and in the manner outlined below, Department of Homeland Security personnel shall take all appropriate actions to execute a wind-down of the program, consistent with the parameters established in this memorandum. …
  • “Taking into consideration the Supreme Court’s and the Fifth Circuit’s rulings in the ongoing litigation, and the September 4, 2017 letter from the Attorney General, it is clear that the June 15, 2012 DACA program should be terminated. In the exercise of my authority in establishing national immigration policies and priorities, except for the purposes explicitly identified below, I hereby rescind the June 15, 2012 memorandum.
  • “Recognizing the complexities associated with winding down the program, the Department will provide a limited window in which it will adjudicate certain requests for DACA and associated applications meeting certain parameters specified below. …

President Donald Trump on the Supreme Court’s ruling, twitter.com/realDonaldTrump, June 18, between 1:15 p.m. and 1:30 p.m., starting with the latest comments

Trump at Davos

President Trump criticized those who campaign against global warming during his remarks at the World Economic Forum. File/Credit: weforum.org

  • “The recent Supreme Court decisions, not only on DACA, Sanctuary Cities, Census, and others, tell you only one thing, we need NEW JUSTICES of the Supreme Court. If the Radical Left Democrats assume power, your Second Amendment, Right to Life, Secure Borders, and……
  • “Religious Liberty, among many other things, are OVER and GONE!
  • “As President of the United States, I am asking for a legal solution on DACA, not a political one, consistent with the rule of law. The Supreme Court is not willing to give us one, so now we have to start this process all over again.
  • “I will be releasing a new list of Conservative Supreme Court Justice nominees, which may include some, or many of those already on the list, by September 1, 2020. If given the opportunity, I will only choose from this list, as in the past, a Conservative Supreme Court Justice…
  • “…Based on decisions being rendered now, this list is more important than ever before (Second Amendment, Right to Life, Religous Liberty, etc.) – VOTE 2020!”
  • “Do you get the impression that the Supreme Court doesn’t like me?
  • “These horrible & politically charged decisions coming out of the Supreme Court are shotgun blasts into the face of people that are proud to call themselves Republicans or Conservatives. We need more Justices or we will lose our 2nd. Amendment & everything else. Vote Trump 2020!”

Supporters of the ruling

The Hispanic National Bar Assoc.

  • “The Hispanic National Bar Association celebrates this decision with our brothers and sisters and their families who have relied on the DACA program since 2012 to stay in the United States after being brought here as children, and whose lives were placed in limbo by the Department of Homeland Security’s attempt to end it. Today, the Supreme Court correctly ruled that the executive branch cannot arbitrarily and capriciously upend the lives of 800,000 DACA recipients and their families.”
  • HNBA President Irene Oria, in a statement.

Esder Chong, a graduate student at Rutgers University – Newark, who was 6 years old when she arrived from South Korea and remains an undocumented resident. Chong feared she could have been barred from returning to the U.S. if she had accepted a Schwarzman Scholar fellowship to study in Beijing, had the Supreme Court upheld the challenge of the DACA program.

DACA, Esder Chong

Rutgers University – Newark student and DACA recipient Esder Chong has won a Schwarzman scholar award to study in Beijing. She had feared she may not have been able to reenter the U.S. if the Supreme Court had invalidated the DACA program. Credit: Rutgers University – Newark

  • “The past few years have been full of uncertainty over whether I could stay in this country despite all my efforts to pursue higher education, advocate for my community and contribute to society. It seemed like I, along with the 700,000 recipients, were holding our breaths for this moment. And this moment, this decision is definitely a huge breath of relief.”
  • “While we celebrate this relief, it’s important to remember that this decision is just the beginning to finding a more sustainable, permanent solution to immigration reform that works for all Americans – including those without papers.”
  • Chong, in a statement issued by Rutgers University – Newark.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations

  • “CAIR welcomes the Supreme Court’s outright rejection of Trump’s illegal attempt to terminate DACA – which protects from deportation more than 600,000 undocumented young people who were brought to our nation as children.
  • “As with the Muslim and Africa Ban, Trump’s attempt to terminate DACA is fueled by a hated for people of color and driven by the demands of anti-immigrant extremists.
  • “CAIR urges the court to stand firm against any future attempt by the Trump administration to harm Dreamers, some of the most dynamic and success-oriented members of our society.
  • “Because the Supreme Court’s ruling is only a temporary solution, Congress must now act to permanently protect DACA by passing the Dream and Promise Act of 2019.”
  • CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad, in a statement.

Critics of the ruling

Jeff Sessions, candidate for U.S. Senate, Alabama, former U.S. attorney general who moved to halt DACA

  • “The Supreme Court continues to undermine law and the efficacy of the entire democratic process by indulging in complex technical gymnastics and even by altering the meaning of words to achieve a desired result. This is not the role of the courts. …
  • “The DACA decision is yet another example of unelected judges advancing the causes of the socialist left. This week alone, in this case and in the definition of sex in the 1964 Civil Rights Act case, this Court has continued its leftward march. These decisions are unprincipled as a matter of law and have produced results that the people and their elected representatives have repeatedly rejected. This must end. …
  • “These decisions do serious damage to the legitimacy of the Court as a nonpolitical body. If they choose to play in the political vortex, they forfeit the respect they have claimed as neutral umpires.
    “The people are not fooled, they can see what is happening. They will not acquiesce as the Supreme Court eviscerates the limits on their powers under the Constitution. They will not tolerate an unelected, unaccountable, liberal oligarchy setting policies by decree that the people and their representatives have refused to adopt.
  • “The fight is on.”

U.S. Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), a candidate for U.S. Senate

  • “By ruling that President Obama can usurp the legislative branch’s authority to unilaterally create law but President Trump can’t undo his unconstitutional actions, the Court is setting a dangerous precedent and a double standard that should concern every American. President Obama said himself that his decision to disregard the law and circumvent the legislative process went far beyond his constitutional power, and it’s disturbing that the Supreme Court chose to uphold his unlawful move.
  • “Let me remind the Supreme Court: it is ultimately the role of Congress – and Congress alone – to pass much-needed immigration reform. After its second power grab this week, it’s clear that Congress needs to step up and take back its constitutionally granted authority to do its job.”
  • Doug Collins via a page on his website.

U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.)

  • Loeffler does not appear to have posted a position on the DACA ruling. Loeffler has posted comments on police, regarding the “defund police” movement; COVID-19 recovery; and agriculture.
  • Kelly Loeffler, via her website.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), chairman of the Subcommittee on The Constitution

Ted Cruz

Sen. Ted Cruz criticized the Supreme Court’s ruling on DACA in remarks on the floor of the Senate. Credit: cruz.senate.gov

  • “Mr. President, today’s decision from the U.S. Supreme Court in Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California is disgraceful. Judging is not a game. It’s not supposed to be a game. But sadly, over recent years, more and more, Chief Justice Roberts has been playing games with the Court to achieve the policy outcomes he desires. This case concerned President Obama’s executive amnesty. Amnesty that President Obama decreed directly contrary to federal law. He did so with no legal authority. He did so in open defiance of federal statutes. And of course, he was celebrated in the press for doing so. …
  • “The fact that elites in Washington don’t see a problem with illegal immigration doesn’t answer the reality for millions of working men and women who do. And these kind of games ultimately make a mockery of the rule of law. They make a mockery of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. To same legerdemain, we saw Chief Justice Roberts do several years ago, upholding Obamacare where, again, just with a little flip of the wrist, he changed a penalty into a tax. That’s not clever. That’s lawless.
  • “This decision today was lawless, it was gamesmanship, and it was contrary to the judicial oath that each of the nine justices has taken. I yield the floor.”
  • Cruz, in a speech delivered on the Senate floor, via a page on Cruz’s website.

Federation for American Immigration Reform, a non-partisan organization that works to reduce immigration.

  • “Today’s ruling by the Supreme Court denying President Trump’s rescission of DACA, a program that was implemented by nothing more than a policy memo issued by his predecessor, is an enormous setback for efforts to enforce U.S. immigration laws, as well as for the Constitution’s Separation of Powers doctrine. …
  • “[T]he Court essentially imputed the weight of law to an executive policy memo by preventing the current president from reversing that policy and substituting his own policy in its place – one that actually conforms with existing statutes. If presidents can overrule laws with policy memos that are hard to reverse, we are on a slippery slope toward the sort of unchecked executive power our founders feared.
  • “On a practical level, today’s ruling will likely lead to future waves of illegal immigration, as people around the world see the opportunity to bring minor children to the United States illegally in the expectation that they will be granted permission to remain permanently.”
  • Dan Stein, FAIR president via a page on FAIR’s website.

Supreme Court ruling

Supreme Court, courtroom

The courtroom of the Supreme Court. Credit: supremecourt.gov

  • “Acting Secretary Duke’s rescission memorandum failed to consider important aspects of the problem before the agency. Although Duke was bound by the Attorney General’s determination that DACA is illegal, see 8 U. S. C. §1103(a)(1), deciding how best to address that determination involved important policy choices reserved for DHS. Acting Secretary Duke plainly exercised such discretionary authority in winding down the program, but she did not appreciate the full scope of her discretion. …
  • “While DHS was not required to ‘consider all policy alternatives,’ ibid., deferred action was ‘within the ambit of the existing’ policy, ibid.; indeed, it was the centerpiece of the policy. In failing to consider the option to retain deferred action, Duke “failed to supply the requisite ‘reasoned analysis.’ ” Id., at 57.
  • “That omission alone renders Duke’s decision arbitrary and capricious, but it was not the only defect. …
  • “While the agency was not required to pursue these accommodations, it was required to assess the existence and strength of any reliance interests, and weigh them against competing policy concerns. Its failure to do so was arbitrary and capricious. …
  • “We do not decide whether DACA or its rescission are sound policies. ‘The wisdom’ of those decisions ‘is none of our concern.’ Chenery II, 332 U. S., at 207. We address only whether the agency complied with the procedural requirement that it provide a reasoned explanation for its action. Here 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.
  • “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.”




David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.


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