WASHINGTON — Undeterred by this week’s Supreme Court ruling, President Donald Trump said Friday he will renew his effort to end legal protections for hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought to the United States as children.
Trump denounced the high court’s ruling that the administration improperly ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in 2017. Splitting with Trump and judicial conservatives, Chief Justice John Roberts joined the four liberal justices in the 5-4 vote Thursday.
Through executive action, Trump could still take away the ability for 650,000 young immigrants to live and work legally in the United States. But with no legislative answer in Congress in sight, uncertainty continues for many immigrants who know of no other home except America.
In a tweet Friday morning, Trump said, “The Supreme Court asked us to resubmit on DACA, nothing was lost or won. They “punted”, much like in a football game (where hopefully they would stand for our great American Flag). We will be submitting enhanced papers shortly.”
Ken Cuccinelli, acting head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said Friday that the administration was starting over. “We’re going to move as quickly as we can to put options in front of the president,” but those are executive branch options, he told “Fox & Friends.”
“That still leaves open the appropriate solution which the Supreme Court mentioned and that is that Congress step up to the plate,” he said.
Cuccinelli said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, made some positive comments in that direction on Thursday so the administration thinks it’s possible for a constructive conversation with Congress. But experts say there isn’t enough time to knock down the 8-year-old program before the November election and doubt the government would try because DACA is popular with voters.
Trump’s tweet on Friday was less confrontational than the one on Thursday when he slammed the high court ruling. “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.” He apparently was referring to DACA and an earlier ruling this week where the court said it’s illegal to fire people because they are gay or transgender.
Activists are vowing to keep fighting for a long-term solution for young immigrants whose parents brought them to the United States when they were children. They not only face a White House that’s prioritized immigration restrictions but a divided Congress that is not expected to pass legislation giving them a path to citizenship anytime soon.
The court decision still elicited surprise, joy and some apprehension from immigrants and advocates who know it’s only a temporary solution.
“This is a huge victory for us,” Diana Rodriguez, a 22-year-old DACA recipient, said through tears.
Rodriguez, who works with the New York Immigration Coalition, said she hasn’t been to Mexico since she was brought to the U.S. at age 2. The ruling means young immigrants can keep working, providing for their families and making “a difference in this country,” she said.
But the work isn’t over, Rodriguez said: “We can’t stop right now, we have to continue fighting.”
Congressional Democrats, meanwhile, appeared satisfied to let the court’s decision stand as the law of the land for now.
While Republicans protested that now, if ever, was the time for Congress to clarify the immigration system, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made it clear that Democrats were done with their legislation before the summer break and had little interest in meeting GOP demands to fund Trump’s long-promised border wall as part of any comprehensive immigration overhaul.
“There isn’t anybody in the immigration community that wants us to trade a wall for immigration,” she said.
Pelosi was reminded that Trump has said he wants immigration reform. “We’ll see,” she said, noting how few days remain on the legislative calendar. “I don’t know what the president meant — maybe he doesn’t either.”
Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden said that if elected, he would send lawmakers proposed legislation on his first day in office to make DACA protections permanent.
The program grew out of an impasse over a comprehensive immigration bill between Congress and the Obama administration in 2012. Under intense pressure from young activists, President Barack Obama decided to formally protect people from deportation and allow them to work legally in the U.S.
Immigrants who are part of DACA will keep those protections, but there are tens of thousands of others who could have enrolled if Trump didn’t halt the program three years ago.
The Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, estimates that about 66,000 young immigrants meet the age requirement to join the program — 15 — but haven’t been able to do so because the government has only been renewing two-year permits for those already enrolled.
The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights has filed a DACA application for a person who’s not part of the program already, legal services director Luis Perez said, though U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services hasn’t signaled whether it will accept any.
“The circuit courts have already told USCIS you must accept renewals. Now that there’s been a Supreme Court decision, really the instructions are gonna be you need to bring back the program in full effect,” Perez said.
It’s unlikely the Trump administration will take new applications without being forced by the courts.
USCIS deputy director for policy Joseph Edlow said in a statement that the court’s opinion “has no basis in law and merely delays the president’s lawful ability to end the illegal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals amnesty program.”
And so the ups and downs continue, many coming from Trump himself. During the 2016 campaign, he vowed to repeal DACA. After his election, he softened his stance, saying at one point that DACA recipients had nothing to worry about. But under pressure from hard-liners, he announced in 2017 that he was ending the program.
Reyna Montoya, a DACA recipient from the Phoenix area who leads an immigrant rights advocacy organization, said she and others will keep pushing Congress.
“At this moment, the Senate needs to act, needs to come up with a proposal that will give us a path to citizenship,” Montoya said.
Story by Astrid Galvan and Deb Riechmann. Associated Press writers Lisa Mascaro and Deepti Hajela contributed to this report