PHOENIX (AP) — 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 a Supreme Court 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 of 650,000 young immigrants to live and work legally in the U.S. And with no legislative answer in sight in Congress, uncertainty continues for many immigrants who know no other home except America.
In a tweet Friday, 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.”
Many believe Trump could modify the rescinding of DACA in the same way he changed a travel ban on mostly Muslim countries. The ban was upheld by the Supreme Court after two revisions in over a year, including adding North Koreans and some Venezuelan officials to the ban.
In a 5-4 opinion with a stark rebuke from liberal justices, the high court found that Trump was well within a president’s considerable authority over immigration and the responsibility for keeping the nation safe.
Groups that support DACA said they will remain on guard against further action by Trump.
“What’s important to note: NOTHING has changed since yesterday and won’t change unless SCOTUS decides otherwise,” the immigration legal services provider and advocacy group RAICES, based in Texas, wrote on Twitter. “We’ll remain vigilant & ready to fight anything that may come.”
Hareth Andrade, a national staffer with Mi Familia Vota, an organization that focuses on voter engagement, said the president’s tweet is a “sore loser remark.” Andrade is also a DACA recipient.
“This appeal tactic will only run out the time he has left as president,” she said. “Our movement knows better, we have deeply organized our communities, and for now, have a SCOTUS decision on our side to keep our DACA benefits intact.”
Megan Essaheb, director of immigration advocacy for the Washington-based nonprofit Asian Americans Advancing Justice, said that while Trump can still terminate DACA, he could also choose to support legislation that provides legal status to recipients along with 300,000 people who have temporary status and the estimated 11 million who are in the U.S. without permission.
“If he chooses cruelty, it will be on him,” Essaheb said.
The Trump administration says it’s moving forward against DACA, even though experts say there isn’t enough time to knock down the program before the November election.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the president has vowed to take care of DACA far better than the Democrats ever did.
“We want to find a compassionate way to do this,” McEnany said.
“We’re going to move as quickly as we can to put options in front of the president,” Ken Cuccinelli, acting head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, 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.
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 also a divided Congress that is not expected to pass legislation providing a path to citizenship anytime soon.
The high court decision on Thursday elicited surprise, joy and some apprehension from immigrants and advocates who know it’s only a temporary development.
“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 back 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 some Republicans asserted that now is 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.
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.
For now, immigrants who are part of DACA will keep their 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 of 15 to join the program but haven’t been able to do so because the government has only been renewing two-year permits for those already enrolled.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services hasn’t signaled whether it will accept any new applications and it’s unlikely the Trump administration would do so without being forced by the courts. Still, pro-DACA organizations are encouraging those who qualify to file first-time applications.
Riechmann reported from Washington. Associated Press reporters Lisa Mascaro in Washington and Deepti Hajela in New York contributed to this report.