Millions of Americans are sleeping more soundly this week after the Supreme Court removed the massive burdens they were carrying on their shoulders. Following a ruling that allowed protections against discrimination to be extended to LGBTQ Americans, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that the Trump administration could not end the DACA program, through which the Obama administration had granted relief from deportation to people illegally brought to this country as children.
It is important to keep in mind that the DACA decision was 5-4 and the majority opinion was written by Chief Justice John Roberts. He wanted to be clear that the ruling doesn’t say DACA is constitutional, but that the Trump administration failed to make their case to end it. That is because, due to something called the Administrative Procedures Act, they are required to show that actions are reasonable and not “arbitrary” or “capricious.” Along those lines, Roberts wrote the following.
We address only whether the [Department of Homeland Security] complied with the procedural requirement that it provide a reasoned explanation for its action. Here the agency failed to consider the conspicuous issues of whether to retain forbearance and what if anything to do about the hardship to DACA recipients. That dual failure raises doubts about whether the agency appreciated the scope of its discretion or exercised that discretion in a reasonable manner.
In other words, a majority of Supreme Court Justices said that it is not enough for Trump to simply say, “let’s end it because I want to do everything in my power to destroy Obama’s legacy.”
The relief this decision provides to Dreamers is very real. That is because ICE Director Matt Albence recently said that his agency had plans in place to begin deporting them if the Supreme Court ruled the other way.
Trump’s ICE Director, Matt Albence, just confirmed they intend to deport #DACA recipients if the Supreme Court rules on Trump’s side: When “DACA is done away with by the Supreme Court, we can actually effectuate those removal orders.” #SCOTUS pic.twitter.com/Qs192JBgn7
— United We Dream (@UNITEDWEDREAM) January 24, 2020
But beyond that relief, these two Supreme Court decisions will have a major political impact. One of the ways that Donald Trump has sold himself to his base—especially Christian nationalists—has been his appointment of two extremist conservatives to the Supreme Court. But even that hasn’t guaranteed that they’ll get what they want, as these two decisions demonstrate. Neera Tanden suggested how Trump’s base might respond.
Friends, the Courts have been a rallying cry for the arch conservatives for decades. If they can’t win there even when they’ve packed the Courts, that is a demobilizing event. Why go out and vote for a guy who kinda embarrasses you if you don’t even get the rulings you want?
— Neera Tanden (@neeratanden) June 18, 2020
Trump knows that—which is why he’s spinning.
The other important ramification of the DACA decision is that in the past, Trump tried to hold the Dreamers hostage in order to force Congress to pass xenophobic changes to our immigration laws. Ultimately that failed, while everyone waited for the courts to weigh in. But if the administration had been allowed to end DACA, you can rest assured that the president and Stephen Miller would have tried again, offering to pass legislation that would protect Dreamers from deportation in exchange for an end to immigration as we known it.
Before we all assume that these two decisions indicate that the Supreme Court is some kind of liberal panacea to Trumpism, keep in mind that they are likely to issue rulings in two more major cases before this term is over. One of them is June Medical Services v. Gee, which would require any doctor performing an abortion to have admitting privileges at a state-approved hospital within 30 miles of the clinic. While not a direct assault of Roe v. Wade, it would allow states to place unnecessary burdens on both women and providers. Given that Justices Roberts, Thomas, and Alito all voted in favor of such restrictions in a similar case prior to the confirmation of Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, it is very likely that the Supreme Court will deal a major blow to women’s reproductive freedom in the coming days.
We can also expect a ruling on whether or not the Supreme Court will enforce subpoenas on Trump’s financial records which, if released publicly, could provide information on the president’s business practices, foreign entanglements, and hush-money payments in the run-up to the November election.
While we can all celebrate the burdens that have been lifted for LGBTQ Americans and Dreamers, we’ll have to wait and see whether the court will affirm women’s reproductive freedom and the ability for the public to hold the president accountable.