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ICYMI: Linda Greenhouse: “The Supreme Court Confronts DACA”

 

Ahead of Tuesday’s Supreme Court’s oral arguments on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, New York Times columnist Linda Greenhouse outlines the legal stakes of the case and astutely notes the risked-politicization of the court, “But the decision will also be important in defining the court’s relationship to a president who behaves as if he has the Supreme Court in his pocket. It will indicate whether the Roberts court — more specifically, the chief justice himself — will continue to insist on believable explanations from an administration that often appears incapable of giving one.” 

Writing for Slate, Aaron Tang helpfully deconstructs and obliterates the Trump administration’s argument for its recission of DACA, concluding, “Put simply, officials must tell the truth in a democracy so that the people can hold them accountable. When the administration shifts the blame for rescinding DACA to the courts—as it tried to do when it argued the policy is unlawful—but in actuality wants to use DACA as a bargaining chip for a border wall, the people are deceived in a way that makes it harder to exercise power at the polls. It is precisely at moments like these when the Supreme Court must stand up to repeat a simple demand: Mr. President, tell the truth.”

Excerpts of Greenhouse’s column are available below: 

Chief Justice John Roberts’s 5-to-4 majority opinion in the census case, Department of Commerce v. New York, is playing an important although largely unnoticed role in how advocates are framing their arguments about the fate of the program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, known as DACA.

The court’s eventual decision in the case, Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California, is obviously of vital importance to the young people who in the seven years since DACA began have been able to study, work legally and start families. But the decision will also be important in defining the court’s relationship to a president who behaves as if he has the Supreme Court in his pocket. It will indicate whether the Roberts court — more specifically, the chief justice himself — will continue to insist on believable explanations from an administration that often appears incapable of giving one.

The parallels between the two cases aren’t exact, but they are striking. Adding the citizenship question to the census was part of the Republican strategy to suppress the response in immigrant-heavy communities and skew the data that feeds into redistricting. When challenged, the Commerce Department claimed it needed the citizenship information to help the Justice Department better enforce the Voting Rights Act, an explanation that Chief Justice Roberts said “seems to have been contrived.” It was, he observed, “incongruent with what the record reveals about the agency’s priorities and decision making process.”

The chief justice’s opinion made it clear that the court was addressing process, not substance: “We do not hold that the agency decision here was substantively invalid. But agencies must pursue their goals reasonably. Reasoned decision making under the Administrative Procedure Act calls for an explanation for agency action. What was provided here was more of a distraction.”

“Reasoned decision making” was glaringly absent from the administration’s rollout of the decision to terminate DACA. Shortly after taking office, President Trump assured DACA recipients that they could “rest easy” because his policy was going to be to “allow the Dreamers to stay.”

…Is it the census case, with its ham-handed lies by the secretary of commerce and the late-breaking revelation of a Republican operative’s real game plan? Or the notion that with a wave of a hand, the president or the henchmen who do his immigration handiwork can eject some 700,000 productive young people from the only home most of them have ever known? Or is it the Trump administration itself that is truly exceptional — and if so, what is the Supreme Court going to do about it?