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Supreme Court Rules Trump Improperly Ended DACA, Allows Program To Stay In Place

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(HuffPost) — The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, will remain in place, keeping nearly 650,000 undocumented young people safe from deportation, thanks to a ruling on Thursday by the Supreme Court. 

The court ruled that President Donald Trump wrongly ended DACA. Chief Justice John Roberts authored the 5-4 decision. While the ruling leaves the door open for Trump to rescind the program in the future, it leaves it in place for now ― a huge relief for hundreds of thousands of people. 

The decision affects undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, often called Dreamers, and are currently able to remain under the Obama-era program. DACA has been life-changing for these undocumented immigrants, removing the looming threat of deportation and allowing them to work legally under permits that must be renewed every two years. But President Donald Trump, along with Republican allies, argued that President Barack Obama had overstepped his authority in creating DACA, and Trump announced plans in 2017 to end the program.

Legal challenges kept the program in place, and in the meantime, DACA recipients were allowed to renew their status. It allowed them to find better jobs, increase their earnings and get driver’s licenses. They pay taxes and buy homes. Some have children who are U.S. citizens. An estimated 29,000 DACA recipients are working in health care, some of them on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, as pro-DACA groups pointed out in a supplemental brief filed with the Supreme Court in April. (Although the justices heard oral argument in the DACA case in November, they agreed to consider this new information as well.)

The court ultimately ruled that the then-acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Elaine Duke, violated the Administrative Procedure Act when she terminated the program by failing to consider important matters, including “what if anything to do about the hardship to DACA recipients.” Roberts wrote that the decision should be sent back to DHS to reconsider. 

“We do not decide whether DACA or its rescission are sound policies,” Roberts writes in the opinion. “‘The wisdom’ of those decisions ‘is none of our concern.’ … We address only whether the agency complied with the procedural requirement that it provide a reasoned explanation for its action. … That dual failure raises doubts about whether the agency appreciated the scope of its discretion or exercised that discretion in a reasonable manner.”

Most of the Republican-appointed justices on the court disagreed with the ruling.

“Today’s decision must be recognized for what it is: an effort to avoid a politically controversial but legally correct decision,” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in a dissent.

Like his predecessor, Trump has taken executive actions on immigration without congressional approval. Early in his presidency, Trump barred people from several Muslim-majority nations from entering the country, following up on a campaign promise to ban Muslims from coming to the United States. The Supreme Court ultimately allowed a watered-down version of that ban to go into effect. In April of this year, Trump issued another order limiting legal immigration, claiming that the coronavirus pandemic and related economic slowdown necessitated it. 

The inherent argument from the Trump White House seemed to be that a president ― or at least this president ― can do whatever he wants on immigration so long as the end result is keeping people out. 

Obama announced DACA in June 2012 at the urging of Dreamers, Latino organizations and many Democratic lawmakers. The program was an effort to use executive action to grant protections to young undocumented immigrants whom Congress had long failed to protect. It is open to those who entered before the age of 16 and were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012 (the day the program was created) and does not cover people who have committed a felony or serious misdemeanors. The Obama administration and DACA supporters argued that the program is permissible as an exercise of prosecutorial discretion, allowing authorities to focus on deporting others.

While Trump is likely to decry the court for blocking one of his policies, it’s also something of a political gift. The majority of voters back legal status for undocumented young people who came to the U.S. as children, meaning throwing them back into limbo ahead of the 2020 election would likely be unpopular. And although White House officials and some Republicans have said they’d act to help Dreamers if the Supreme Court allowed Trump to rescind DACA, there’s plenty of past precedent that indicates they wouldn’t. 

While politicians from both parties have said that people who came to the U.S. as kids shouldn’t be punished, Republican lawmakers have repeatedly blocked measures to help them. The Dream Act, a bill initially proposed in 2001 to give Dreamers a path to citizenship, failed most recently in 2010. In 2013, House Republicans blocked broader immigration reform that would have given many undocumented people the opportunity to gain citizenship, even after the legislation passed in the Senate

Trump’s election in 2016, after a campaign defined by his vilification of immigrants, effectively doomed the chances for progress on major immigration reform. The president has occasionally given lip service to supporting efforts to protect Dreamers, including tweeting in November that if the Supreme Court allowed him to end DACA, “a deal will be made with Dems for them to stay!”

In practice, though, he has conditioned potential support for Dreamer protections on the passage of his own priorities, such as funding a border wall, limiting access to asylum and changing the legal immigration process. Republicans, even those who state support for Dreamers, also largely back tying protections to broader immigration reform.

Trump has also disparaged Dreamers. In the same November tweet saying he would make a deal for DACA recipients to stay in the U.S., Trump wrote: “Many of the people in DACA, no longer very young, are far from ‘angels.’ Some are very tough, hardened criminals.”

During oral arguments last fall in the case known as Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh indicated they might side with the administration. Roberts suggested that the program could be phased out and that ending it wouldn’t put DACA recipients at risk of deportation. 

“The whole thing was about work authorization and these other benefits,” Roberts said. “Both administrations [Trump and Obama] have said they’re not going to deport the people.”

But that was no guarantee. While some Trump administration officials have said DACA recipients wouldn’t be priorities for deportation should they lose their protected status, Trump ended other Obama administration policies prioritizing some immigrants for deportation over others. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has reopened removal cases against DACA recipients, and ICE acting director Matthew Albence confirmed in January that if individuals “get ordered removed and DACA is done away with by the Supreme Court, we can actually effectuate those removal orders.”

In early June, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), a longtime advocate for Dreamers, asked the head of ICE’s deportation arm whether it would carry out removal of DACA recipients, should the program be eliminated. The answer was yes. 

Henry Lucero, director of ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations, told Durbin in a hearing that there are no current plans on the matter and that orders for removal come from immigration judges or, in certain cases, agencies that carried out the arrest.

“ICE carries out those lawful orders and will continue to do so,” Lucero said.

The Supreme Court decision comes at a particularly painful time for people of color, especially Black people, in the United States, amid nationwide protests over police violence. While the majority of DACA recipients are Hispanic or Latino, nearly 11,000 people with the protections are from countries in which most immigrants to the U.S. are Black, according to the Center for American Progress.

Read the US Supreme Court’s DACA ruling here or below.

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Biden Expected To Repeal Military Trans Ban Tomorrow

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The Biden administration is expected to repeal the ban on transgender Americans from serving in the military, multiple people informed of the decision told CBS News. The announcement is expected as soon as Monday, one senior Defense official and four outside advocates of repealing the ban told CBS News.

The senior Defense official told CBS News the repeal will be through executive order signed by President Joe Biden. The announcement is expected to take place at a ceremony with newly-confirmed Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who will order the Pentagon to go back to the policy enacted in 2016 by former Defense Secretary Ash Carter that allowed transgender Americans to serve openly.

The White House did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

The new order will direct the branches of the military to outline an implementation plan. 

The ban was announced by former President Trump via a tweet in July 2017. The ban took effect in April 2019 and barred transgender Americans from enlisting in the military.

In 2014, it was estimated there were around 15,500 transgender military members serving, according to a study by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law.

Biden frequently repeated on the campaign trail his promise to repeal the ban.

Austin said at his Senate confirmation hearing last week that he planned to repeal the ban.

“I support the president’s plan or plan to overturn the ban,” Austin said on Tuesday when asked by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, “I truly believe, Senator, that as I said in my opening statement, that if you’re fit and you’re qualified to serve and you can maintain the standards, you should be allowed to serve. And, you can expect that I will support that throughout.”

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Trump Pardons Steve Bannon In One of His Final Acts As 45th President

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(CNN)— President Donald Trump has decided to pardon his former chief strategist Steve Bannon, in a last-minute decision made only hours before he is scheduled to depart the White House for a final time.

Officials cautioned CNN that Trump’s decision was not final until he signed the paperwork. Trump told people that after much deliberation, he had decided to pardon Bannon as one of his final acts in office.

Bannon’s pardon would follow a frantic scramble during the President’s final hours in office as attorneys and top aides debated his inclusion on Trump’s outgoing clemency list. Despite their falling out in recent years, Trump was eager to pardon his former aide after recently reconnecting with him as he helped fan Trump’s conspiracy theories about the election.

It was a far cry from when Trump exiled Bannon from his inner circle after he was quoted in a book trashing the President’s children, claiming that Donald Trump Jr. had been “treasonous” by meeting with a Russian attorney and labeling Ivanka Trump “dumb as a brick.” Those statements from Bannon drove Trump to issue a lengthy statement saying he had “lost his mind.”

“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my presidency,” Trump said at the time.Things shifted in recent months as Bannon attempted to breach Trump’s inner circle once again by offering advice before the election and pushing his false theories after Trump had lost.

Since Trump’s election defeat, the President has leaned further into his expansive pardon powers — granting pardons to his first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, longtime ally Roger Stone and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, among others.

Among Trump’s pardons earlier in his term were those for former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, right-wing commentator Dinesh D’Souza and financier Michael Milken.

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California Governor Formally Appoints Alex Padilla To Fill US Senate Seat Vacated By Kamala Harris

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(CNN) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom formally submitted the appointment of Alex Padilla to the US Senate today, according to a press release from the governor’s office. 

Padilla formally resigned as Secretary of State this morning and Gov. Newsom also submitted his nomination letter for Assembly member Shirley Weber to replace him. The Deputy Secretary of State, James Schwab, will be the Acting Secretary of State.

“It is fitting that on the same day we celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. — a civil rights icon who fought for justice and representation — we also move forward the appointment of California’s first Latino U.S. Senator Alex Padilla and the nomination of Dr. Shirley Weber who will serve as the first-ever African American Secretary of State. Both will be strong defenders of our democracy during this fragile moment in our nation’s history,” said Gov. Newsom.

“I am humbled and honored by your trust in me to represent California in the United States Senate. I look forward to continuing to serve the great State of California as a United States Senator and to ensuring that the rights and democratic principles we cherish are protected and preserved for all people,” Padilla wrote in a letter to Gov. Newsom.

Some context: Earlier today, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris formally resigned her seat as one of California’s US Senators. She’ll be inaugurated as vice president on Wednesday, Jan. 20. In a farewell addressed posted to Twitter, Harris said, “Of course, I’m not saying goodbye. In many ways, I’m now saying hello as your vice president.”

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