WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the Trump administration may not immediately proceed with its plan to end a program protecting about 700,000 young immigrants known as Dreamers from deportation.
The court’s ruling was a blow to one of President Donald Trump’s central campaign promises — that as president he would “immediately terminate” an executive order by former President Barack Obama that Trump had called an illegal executive amnesty for hundreds of thousands of young immigrants.
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion, joined by the court’s four more liberal members in upholding the program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.
“We do not decide whether DACA or its rescission are sound policies,” the chief justice wrote. “We address only whether the agency complied with the procedural requirement that it provide a reasoned explanation for its action.”
After contentious debates among his aides, Trump announced in September 2017 that he would wind down the program. He gave only a single reason for doing so, saying that creating or maintaining the program was beyond the legal power of any president.
But the justifications the government gave, Roberts wrote, were insufficient. He said the administration may try again to provide adequate reasons for shutting down the program.
In a dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch, said the majority had been swayed by sympathy and politics.
“Today’s decision must be recognized for what it is: an effort to avoid a politically controversial but legally correct decision,” Thomas wrote. “The court could have made clear that the solution respondents seek must come from the legislative branch.”
“In doing so,” he wrote, “it has given the green light for future political battles to be fought in this court rather than where they rightfully belong — the political branches.”
The program was announced by Obama in 2012. It allows young people brought to the United States as children to apply for a temporary status that shields them from deportation and allows them to work. The status lasts for two years and is renewable, but it does not provide a path to citizenship.
The court’s ruling means the Trump administration officials will have to provide a lower court with a more robust justification for ending the program. That process is likely to take many months.
This article was written by Adam Liptak and Michael D. Shear, reporters for The New York Times.