We are grateful for the Supreme Court’s opinion in Department of Homeland Security et al. v. Regents of the University of California et al.. The Court’s opinion upholds that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)—acting under President Trump—did not follow administrative procedure in seeking to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in the United States.
Like the Court’s opinion earlier this week upholding Title VII protections in employment for LGBTQ persons on the basis of sex, this action highlights the judiciary’s careful scrutiny of cases brought forward by lower courts and members of the Trump Administration.
DACA is a U.S. immigration policy instituted by an executive order under President Obama in 2012. The policy allows immigrants who arrived in the United States before the age of 16, and who were younger than 31 years old on June 15, 2012, to apply to defer deportation for residing in the United States unlawfully, and to pursue work permits. While DACA does not provide a path to citizenship, it affords protection to people to legally work and reside in the United States. By enabling DACA recipients to legally work in the United States, the program empowers young immigrants through the opportunity for legal employment and—in some states—to apply for driver’s licenses. These benefits have been documented by the Migration Policy Institute as having positive outcomes on the economic, social and emotional well-being of the program’s recipients.
In the fall of 2019, the Supreme Court of the United States agreed to consider three cases regarding DHS actions to end DACA. Today, the court issued its opinion in the case, ruling that “The two jurisdictional provisions of the [Immigration and Naturalization Service] invoked … do not apply” and that the “[Department of Homeland Security]’s decision to rescind DACA was arbitrary and capricious under the [Administrative Procedure Act].”
Despite this administrative victory, we remain wary about what the future holds for the DACA program. The DHS could still seek to dismantle the program, which would have devastating impacts on the nearly 650,000 current DACA recipients. In April, Jan and Marica Vilcek penned an open letter in response to President Trump’s stated intent to suspend immigration to the United States, and we have carefully and fearfully watched the introduction of xenophobic bills by Senator Cruz (R-Texas) that target Chinese immigrants, students and nationals in the United States.
Immigration is a powerful driver of innovation in the sciences and in the arts, and immigrants are essential for the growth of our economy. The Vilcek Foundation strongly supports the DACA program. Its core value is its dual recognition of the dignity and humanity of immigrants, and in the benefits afforded by DACA: creating avenues for financial empowerment and legal residency—if only temporarily—for immigrants who arrived in the United States as children.
In these times of great discourse about equity and justice in society, we are ever more poignantly aware of the value of diversity. For twenty years, our mission has been to honor and celebrate the contributions of immigrants to the arts and sciences in the United States. The COVID-19 pandemic has illuminated, on a broad scale, how critical immigrants’ work and contributions in the United States are to our survival as a nation and a society. The healthcare workers, service professionals, and essential personnel in the businesses that have kept our communities alive through the pandemic are immigrants. From Chef José Andrés’ provision of millions of meals to those in need through World Central Kitchen, to Feng Zhang’s development of a rapid testing protocol for COVID-19, we see what we have known all along: Immigrants are essential.