Supreme Court Ruling Protects DACA Service Members from Deportation

U.S. Supreme Court
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students gather in front of the Supreme Court on June 18, 2020, in Washington. The Supreme Court rejected President Donald Trump’s effort to end legal protections for 650,000 young immigrants, a stunning rebuke to the president in the midst of his reelection campaign. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Several hundred "Dreamers" in the military received a conditional guarantee from the Supreme Court on Thursday that they could continue serving without fear of deportation by the Trump administration.

In the second surprising ruling this week with major implications for the military, the Supreme Court barred the administration from ending protections for about 700,000 immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

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The court did not state that the administration was wrong for seeking to end the protections for the Dreamers under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, but rather said that the administration had failed to come up with a rational basis for wanting to do it.

In his majority opinion in the 5-4 ruling, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote, "We do not decide whether DACA or its rescission are sound policies.

"We address only whether the agency [Homeland Security] complied with the procedural requirement that it provide a reasoned explanation for its action," he added.

Roberts said the administration could try again at a later date to come up with adequate reasons, but the ruling effectively blocks President Donald Trump from fulfilling his campaign promise to end the DACA program, which was put in place by executive order by former President Barack Obama.

Roberts was joined in the majority by the court's more liberal judges -- Associate Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor.

In February 2018 in an informal session with Pentagon reporters, then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said that the estimated 800 "Dreamers" then serving were not in danger of deportation, and those who were honorably discharged were also protected.

"Right now in terms of the DACA situation -- in other words, our guys on active duty and that sort of thing or in the active delayed enlistment program -- are not in any kind of jeopardy," Mattis said.

He did not spell out whether he had solid assurances from the administration but said he had spoken to Homeland Security on the issue "in great detail."

The DACA ruling was the second this week by the Supreme Court that went against policies of the Trump administration.

In a 6-3 ruling Monday, with the majority opinion written by Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch, a Trump nominee, the court said that a 1964 civil rights statute against sex discrimination in the workplace extended to gay and transgender individuals.

Advocacy groups said the ruling backed up their ongoing lawsuits to overturn the administration's restrictions on transgender service in the military.

On Twitter, Trump railed against the Supreme Court's rulings. He asked, "Do you get the impression that the Supreme Court doesn't like me?"

Trump added, "The recent Supreme Court decisions, not only on DACA, Sanctuary Cities, Census, and others, tell you only one thing, we need NEW JUSTICES of the Supreme Court. If the Radical Left Democrats assume power, your Second Amendment, Right to Life, Secure Borders, and Religious Liberty, among many other things, are OVER and GONE!"

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at

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