Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments That Will Determine Fate of DACA Program

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Hundreds of people gather outside the U.S. Supreme Court to rally in support of the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra presented arguments for DACA’s constitutionality on behalf of a coalition of attorneys general. “More than two years ago we sued the Trump administration, telling Dreamers we would fight for them every step of the way,” he said in a statement issued prior to Tuesday’s hearing. Today, alongside partners from across the country, we make good on that promise again, this time before our nations highest court.” Speaking to MSNBCon Tuesday afternoon, Becerra reflected optimistically, “We hope the Supreme Court will give us a good decision that proves the program is not only legal but valuable & the Trump administration recognizes it is time to stop playing political football with the Dreamers & give them a chance to call this home.”

The justices seemed to unanimously recognize the value of the DACA program, according to a report from the New York Times, and were willing to engage emotionally to the arguments. “I hear a lot of facts, sympathetic facts, that you’ve put out there, and they speak to all of us,” Justice Gorsuch told Theodore Olson, who was arguing for the constitutionality of the program alongside co-counsel Luis Cortes, a 31-year-old DACA recipient who was brought to the US as an infant from Mexico. The duo makes for an unexpected pair, asCorteshad never argued at the Supreme Court before Tuesday while Olson has presented over 60 arguments there, often in favor of conservative policies.

But Olson emphasized to CNN that the case transcends left of right. The hope is that his conservative bona fides working within Republican administrations dating back to Reagan’s time in office, in addition to his experience in front of the justices, will effectively focus the pair’s oral arguments on constitutionality rather than on values or the merits of DACA. “The government claims that it had no choice because DACA is unlawful, even though it is consistent with seventy years of similar deferred action immigration policies carried out by presidential administrations of both political parties,” Olson pointed out.

Cortes, who works in immigration law, recognized the personal significance of his presence at the Supreme Court, telling CNN, “I will be looking at nine individuals who will ultimately decide whether my clients will be deported and me with them.” If the court rules in favor of the Trump administration, Cortes will lose his DACA status in 2021 unless another temporary program or a path to citizenship is signed into law by that time, putting the fate of DACA recipients in the legislative branch. “If it gets to the point that I’m deported, it would also mean that Congress wouldn’t have acted within the next two years,” he said.