WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court will hear arguments on Tuesday on the Trump administration’s attempt to shut down a program protecting about 700,000 young immigrants known as “Dreamers.”
The case, one of the most important of the term, will address presidential power over immigration, a signature issue for President Trump and a divisive one, especially as it has played out in the debate over the fate of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program that has broad, bipartisan support.
The program, announced by President Barack Obama in 2012, 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.
Mr. Trump has praised the program’s goals. “Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military?” he asked in a 2017 Twitter post.
But after contentious debates among his aides, Mr. 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.
“I do not favor punishing children,” Mr. Trump said in his formal announcement of the termination. But, he added, “the program is unlawful and unconstitutional and cannot be successfully defended in court.”
That assertion is at the heart of the three consolidated cases before the Supreme Court. Had Mr. Trump simply declared that he had decided to pursue a different approach as a matter of policy, that decision would very likely have been upheld by courts as a routine exercise of executive discretion.
In making a purely legal argument, however, Mr. Trump subjected his decision to terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, to judicial review, several courts have ruled. Those courts went on to say that the administration’s legal reasoning was faulty, and they blocked the termination of the program.
The Trump administration’s argument that the program was unlawful was based on a 2015 ruling from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans. But that decision concerned a different, much larger program. Judges in the DACA cases said the two programs differed in important ways, undermining the administration’s legal analysis.
The justices have tested the Trump administration’s justifications for its initiatives on immigration in other cases.
In 2018, the court upheld Mr. Trump’s order limiting travel from several predominantly Muslim nations, relying on the justifications set out in a presidential proclamation and refusing to consider statements from Mr. Trump concerning his desire to impose a “Muslim ban.”
In June, however, the Supreme Court rejected the administration’s rationale for adding a citizenship question to the census. “The sole stated reason” for adding the question, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the majority, “seems to have been contrived.”
In a Supreme Court brief, the administration said the DACA cases, including the Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California, No. 18-587, were different.
“The courts below erred,” the brief said, “in second-guessing D.H.S.’s entirely rational judgment to stop facilitating ongoing violations of federal law on a massive scale.”
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