AG Actions Spotlight: Democratic AGs Protecting DACA Before Supreme Court

Today (Tuesday, November 12), the United States Supreme Court will hear the legal challenges to the Trump administration’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program—a program established by President Obama after a Republican Congress failed to pass the “Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors” Act also known as the DREAM Act.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA protects young undocumented individuals, also known as DREAMers, from deportation and provides them a pathway to successfully participating in their communities by helping them obtain jobs, attend school, and giving them a sense of stability in a country that is the only home they’ve ever known.

To be eligible for the program, recipients must meet several requirements and provide evidence of the following: they were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012; they arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16; they were living in the U.S. at the prescribed times, including when applying for DACA status; they are currently in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a GED, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States; and have no felony convictions or a significant number of misdemeanors.

Additionally, DACA recipients must reapply to the program every 2 years and pay an application fee of nearly $500 every time. On top of the federal protections, DACA recipients may qualify for additional benefits depending on their state, including access to driver’s licenses, bank accounts and more. Despite providing a lifeline to many undocumented youth, the program’s requirements mean that some DREAMers are ineligible to apply and are therefore unable to receive protections under DACA.

As of October, 787,580 people have been approved for the program. The ability to openly participate in our economy has resulted in DREAMers being responsible for $9 billion in federal and state taxes. Moreover, 68-percent of DACA recipients who were able to complete certificates or licensing programs saw their hourly wages increases, and 77-percent at least doubled their yearly salaries.

The economic contributions of DACA recipients has even caught the attention of large businesses. In October over 140 companies and 18 business associations filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the Supreme Court asking the justices to uphold DACA. And, to show its support of the program, Microsoft is sending its DACA employees to Washington, D.C. to urge Congress to pass a law making DACA permanent.

Despite the program’s tangible, and intangible, benefits, within the first 9 months of the Trump administration, DACA came under threat. In September 2017, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the administration would be terminating the program. Ending DACA risks the livelihoods of DACA recipients in every state, affects every community they call home, and threatens the U.S. economy.

That is why Democratic AGs took swift action to file lawsuits challenging the legality of the DACA program termination – stepping up to protect the DREAMers and uphold the rule of law. In fact, through three different multi-state coalitions, 22 Democratic AGs are fighting back to protect DACA and hold the Trump administration accountable.

These lawsuits were combined with another challenge to the administration policy and they are now before the United States Supreme Court. On top of the lawsuits initially filed by 22 Democratic AGs, additional Democratic AGs have signed on to friend-of-the-court briefs to express their support for the program.

DACA Lawsuit Timeline

September 5, 2017 — Trump admin announces it will terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

September 6, 2017 — 16 Democratic AGs file a lawsuit against the Trump admin for its decision to end the DACA program.

September 11, 2017 — California AG Xavier Becerra leads 3 other states against the Trump admin’s decision to end the DACA program.

January 9, 2018 — a Federal District Court judge for the United States District Court for the Northern District of California issued a broad opinion reinstating much of the DACA program.

January 16, 2018 — the Trump admin says it will ask the Supreme Court to review the federal order to resume accepting DACA renewal applications as well as appealing the decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

February 13, 2018 — a Federal District Court judge in New York also ruled against the Trump admin, allowing for the continuation of DACA renewal applications to be accepted.

Since the nationwide injunction was issued, the federal government has approved more than 500,000 renewal applications, allowing hundreds of thousands of Dreamers to continue to study, work, and remain with their families.

February 26, 2018 — the Supreme Court denied the Trump admin’s request to expedite a hearing on the California and New York rulings.

March 5, 2018 — a Federal District Court judge in Maryland ruled that the Trump admin HAS the authority to terminate the DACA program.

  • However, the USCIS will continue to accept DACA renewal applications because of the California and New York cases remain in effect nationwide. The Judge also ruled that the government should continue to protect the information on DACA applications

April 24, 2018 — a Federal District Court judge in the District of Columbia ruled that the Trump admin must resume accepting new applications for DACA, but stayed his decision 90 days to allow the Department of Homeland Security to explain why the program had been cancelled.

August 3, 2018 — the same Federal District Court judge in DC that stayed his decision 90 days in April announced the Trump admin failed to justify its proposal to end DACA, however he stayed the ruling an additional 20 days to allow the Trump admin time to respond and appeal if it chooses.

August 31, 2018 —a Federal District Court judge in Texas issued a decision in a lawsuit filed by the Republican Texas Attorney General and 6 other states against the DACA program.

  • The Texas Judge decided not to issue an injunction halting DACA, which the Texas AG and 6 other states requested. This meant that renewals can continue until the case moves forward.

November 6, 2018 — U.S. Department of Justice sought certiorari (or cert) by the Supreme Court before the Ninth Circuit court of appeals (before the Ninth Circuit had rendered a decision on the case)

  • Essentially asking the Supreme Court to take up their case because they believed the Ninth Circuit would rule against them (and that the Supreme Court was a more “friendly court”) or the case was extremely important and needed to be heard as soon as possible.

November 8, 2018 — The Ninth Circuit affirmed the lawfulness of the preliminary injunction, ruling against the Trump administration and in favor of the California Attorney General defending the DACA program. DACA renewal applications can continue to be accepted at this time.

January 23, 2019— the U.S. Supreme Court refuses to take up the Trump admin’s challenge to the circuit court decisions affirming DACA.

March 22, 2019 — Colorado AG Phil Weiser joined 16 other Democratic AGs on the New York lawsuit, filed September 6th, against the Trump administration’s effort to terminate the DACA program.

May 17, 2019 — the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court ruling, which had determined that the Trump admin had done nothing wrong either in ending DACA or how it went about ending DACA. This ruling is in line with previous District Court rulings in New York, California and DC.

June 28, 2019 — The Supreme Court agrees to hear oral arguments around the DACA program as three separate cases are consolidated:

  • of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California, et al. (known as the “California case”);
  • McAleenan v. Batalla Vidal (known as “New York case”); and
  • Trump v. NAACP (known as the “DC case”)

September 26, 2019 – New Jersey AG Gurbir Grewal files an amicus brief in the Supreme Court with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund arguing against the Trump administration’s efforts to end DACA.

October 4, 2019 – Nevada AG Aaron Ford files an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in Dept. of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California, et al. against the Trump administration’s efforts to end DACA.

October 8, 2019 – Michigan AG Dana Nessel files an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in Dept. of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California, et al. against the Trump administration’s efforts to end DACA.

November 12, 2019 — the justices will consider three consolidated cases, with 22 Democratic AGs represented, that were filed in California, the District of Columbia, and New York.

  • In all three cases, the challengers have argued that ending the program would violate the Administrative Procedure Act, the federal law governing administrative agencies, as well as the rights of DACA recipients.

June 2020 —This is the preliminary deadline as to when a likely Supreme Court decision regarding the DACA program will be issued.