With Congress mired in a deepening controversy over the future of the “DACA” program for younger undocumented immigrants, the Trump Administration stepped up its efforts to get the Supreme Court to set an unusually fast schedule to review the program’s legal fate.
Government lawyers on Friday afternoon asked the Justices to examine at their next private conference – on February 16 – the administration plea to allow the closing of the program by March 5. (“DACA” refers to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a five-year-old program that currently protects more than 680,000 immigrants from being deported; they were brought to the U.S. illegally as children by their parents. They are usually referred to as the “dreamers.”)
The Administration had just filed on Thursday its appeal from a federal judge’s order requiring the government to keep the DACA program intact for several more months, while its legality is being weighed in lower federal courts.
In a motion filed Friday, the government’s lawyers proposed an expedited schedule for the appeal to unfold in the Supreme Court, with the defenders of DACA to offer by next Monday their views on the schedule to be followed, for the defenders to file their legal brief answering the appeal by January 31, for the Court to vote on grant or denial of review on February 16, and then – if the case is granted review – for it to be heard and decided before the Justices finish their current term, expected in late June.
Under the Court’s usual timetable during a term, a case has to be granted review before late January in order for there to be adequate time for lawyers to prepare their full written arguments and then to appear for a hearing. Normally, the final set of hearings is held in April. The Administration proposal would set a schedule that would run a month behind the normal timetable. A hearing could still occur in April, but only if the schedule for filing briefs was shortened.
The motion argued that the importance of the controversy, and the need to get it resolved so that everyone involved knows where they stand, justify the rapid schedule that the Administration lawyers proposed. The program was created in the Obama Administration in June 2012, with no end-point established. It has allowed the DACA program participants to remain in the U.S. without fear of deportation for renewable two-year periods, and with the opportunity to get jobs or study.
Last September, the Trump Adminstration decided to scuttle the program as of March 5, after officials concluded that DACA was probably going to be struck down by the courts when a group of states led by Texas mounted a planned challenge to its legality. The actual ending of the program in March was chosen to allow time to “wind down” the program’s existence. That delayed shutdown was also designed to give Congress time to decide whether it wanted to pass a law to keep DACA in existence. As of Friday afternoon, no such legislative solution was forthcoming in Congress.
Although the program is broadly popular in Congress, and among the American people as shown in repeated polls, its future has gotten caught up in a federal budget showdown in Congress.