WASHINGTON — Adding a high-stakes immigration case to its election-year agenda, the US Supreme Court said Friday it will decide whether President Donald Trump can terminate an Obama-era program shielding young migrants from deportation.
The justices’ order sets up legal arguments for late fall or early winter, with a decision likely by June 2020 as Trump campaigns for re-election. The president ordered an end to the program known as DACA in 2017, sparking protests and a congressional effort to salvage it.
That effort failed, but federal courts in California, New York, Virginia and Washington, DC, have blocked him from ending it immediately. A federal judge in Texas has declared the program is illegal, but refused to order it halted .
The program — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — protects about 700,000 people, known as dreamers, who were brought to the US illegally as children or came with families that overstayed visas.
The DACA protections seem certain to remain in effect at least until the high court issues its decision.
The administration had asked the court to take up and decide the appeals by the end of this month. The justices declined to do so and held on to the appeals for nearly five months with no action and no explanation. The court did nothing Friday to clear up the reasons for the long delay, although immigration experts have speculated that the court could have been waiting for other appellate rulings, legislation in Congress that would have put the program on a surer footing or additional administration action.
“We are pleased the Supreme Court agreed that this issue needs resolution. We look forward to presenting our case before the court,” Justice Department spokesman Alexei Woltornist said.
Since entering the White House, Trump has intermittently expressed a willingness to create a pathway to citizenship for the hundreds of thousands of immigrants who’ve been protected by DACA. But he’s coupled it with demands to tighten legal immigration and to build his long wall along the Mexican border — conditions that Democrats have largely rejected.
With the 2020 presidential and congressional election seasons underway or rapidly approaching, it seems unlikely that either party would be willing to compromise on immigration, a touchstone for both parties’ base voters. Three decades of Washington gridlock over the issue underscore how fraught it has been for lawmakers, and there’s little reason to think a deal is at hand.