On Tuesday, the Supreme Court effectively handed the Trump administration a defeat over its attempt to repeal the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA – the high court decided to do nothing about it, leaving the program’s fate up to the lower courts. At least for now, that means protections stay in pace for some 700,000 undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.
Tony Payan is director of the Mexico Center at Rice University’s Baker Institute. He researches immigration and how countries govern their borders, and says the Supreme Court’s refusal to evaluate the constitutionality of DACA comes at a fraught time, as President Donald Trump is trying to use DACA as a bargaining tool in his attempt to secure funding for the border wall and end the government shutdown.
“We now know that he’s been offering a three-year extension of DACA in exchange for $5.7 billion for his border wall,” Payan says.
But Democrats haven’t accepted that offer.
“So we’re back to square one,” Payan says.
After California, Texas has the next-largest number of people with DACA status – about 120,000. Payan says the implication of the Supreme Court’s non-decision means that DACA recipients will continue to feel uncertain about their legal status in the U.S.
“The stress is enormous, the uncertainty is enormous,” Payan says. “I was talking to a young man in Dallas recently, and he said, ‘If this doesn’t go well, my job will end on February the 28th; I don’t know if I can renew or not.”
Payan says many DACA recipients are leaving the program and reverting to illegal status because the fate of DACA is uncertain.
“It’s really in the hands of the courts; it’s in the hands of the 9th Circuit out there in California, and, eventually, maybe in 2020, in the hands of the Supreme Court,” Payan says.
In the meantime, Payan says DACA is still in place.
Written by Caroline Covington.