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Supreme Court ruling on DACA hailed by Mass. immigration advocates and lawmakers

DACA recipients and their supporters rallied outside the Supreme Court.
DACA recipients and their supporters rallied outside the Supreme Court.Drew Angerer/Getty

Members of the Massachusetts all-Democratic congressional delegation and immigration advocates on Thursday lauded the Supreme Court ruling that rejected President Trump’s effort to end legal protections for hundreds of thousands of young immigrants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA.

#HomeIsHere for the 800,000 Dreamers in #MA7 and across our country,” said Representative Ayanna Pressley via Twitter. “Sending love and light to #DACA recipients everywhere and the organizers who fought so hard for this victory. Time for the Senate to finally pass the Dream and Promise Act.”

Senator Elizabeth Warren also welcomed the news.

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“I’m happy the Supreme Court upheld DACA to protect Dreamers from the crisis Trump created,” Warren tweeted. “But we can’t stop here. The House passed the American Dream & Promise Act over a year ago. @SenateGOP: stop the political games & pass this bill for Dreamers & their families. #HereToStay.”

Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh said during a briefing outside City Hall that the ruling is a boon to his city.

“That relieves a burden on so many people in our city,” noting there are some 4,500 DACA recipients in the Boston area, including many front-line and essential workers who have been battling the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is a good ruling for our city and our country,” Walsh said. “I am encouraged by today’s decision, but this is only a temporary solution.” He called on Congress to pass the Dream and Promise Act.

Representative Bill Keating, one of the original co-sponsors of the act, lauded the ruling as well and said the Trump administration’s efforts to dismantle the program were “cruel and misguided.”

“Dreamers are a valuable part of our society,” Keating said in a statement. “They are first responders, healthcare professionals, teachers - they are our friends and neighbors. Many, if not most, know no other home than this country. And they deserve to be treated for what they are - Americans.”

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Keating pledged to continue to push for passage of the Dream and Promise Act.

“I will continue to support its passage into law,” he said. “The policies in H.R. 6 outline how we must treat those who only know this country as home and look to our country for protection. Offering safety and security for those in need is the American thing to do.”

Massachusetts Attorney Maura Healey, a Democrat who, along with other state attorneys general, sued the Trump administration in federal court in 2017 over the White House’s decision to terminate DACA, said Thursday that the Supreme Court had delivered a “huge win” for the country.

“Today, we won another big victory against Donald Trump in the Supreme Court,” Healey said in a statement. “The Court ruled that the Trump administration’s termination of the DACA program was an unlawful attack on our Dreamers and our communities. This is a huge win for our young people and our country. And we won’t stop fighting now. I urge Congress to take action to protect this program, as well as Temporary Protected Status for immigrant residents in Massachusetts and all across America.”

The Trump administration, Healey said, “may have tried to end DACA and the dreams of millions, but know this: my Office is your government too. We will keep our promise and stand with Dreamers every step of the way.”

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By a vote of 5-4, the justices rejected administration arguments that the 8-year-old DACA program is illegal and that courts have no role to play in reviewing the decision to end DACA. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court that the administration did not pursue the end of the program properly.

“This decision represents a victory for the immigrant youth who fought for the passage of DACA and then went on to work, to school and to contribute to this country and provide for themselves and their families, which is all that any immigrant wants to do,” said Patricia Montes, executive director of Centro Presente, an immigration advocacy group based in East Boston. “This was the right decision and it comes at such an important time in this country. We salute the youth who made it happen.

Montes’s words were echoed by the MIRA Coalition, another advocacy group based in Boston.

“A HUGE victory!” the MIRA Coalition tweeted. “The rescission of #DACA was ‘arbitrary and capricious’ as we’ve argued all along.”

Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts, also praised the high court ruling.

“We commend the court for holding that the Trump administration acted unlawfully in ending the DACA program,” Rose said in a statement. “Make no mistake: President Trump and his administration’s decision to abandon the DACA program was a political one, not a legal one.”

The issue is especially urgent in Massachusetts, Rose said.

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“Here in the Commonwealth, thousands of Dreamers call Massachusetts home,” Rose said. “But today’s decision will not stop the Trump administration’s relentless efforts to deport millions of people. Massachusetts must do more to protect its residents from the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant agenda. State elected officials must do all that they can to make sure all immigrants in Massachusetts are safe and free. The legislature must enact the Safe Communities Act to ensure we don’t spend our state and local resources helping ICE deport our neighbors, and the Work and Family Mobility Act to ensure that Dreamers can continue to drive safely and legally in Massachusetts.”

Lawyers for Civil Rights, another Boston-based group the advocates for immigrant communities, said the ruling “rebukes the Trump Administration for the unlawful and flawed process that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security used in rushing to improperly terminate DACA.”

The group said it had filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court case.

In the filing, the statement said, Lawyers for Civil Rights had argued that “an adverse ruling would have devastated families, communities and economies across the country. This is particularly true for Massachusetts where 5,640 DACA recipients reside and are a vital and integral part of our schools, workplaces and communities. DACA currently protects over 700,000 people from deportation, and allows them to live, study, work, and raise children in the United States lawfully.”

Barack Obama introduced DACA in June 2012. He said he had no choice but to act on behalf of the young people who qualified because Congress had failed to do so. In order to qualify for protections under the program, participants are required to have a clean criminal record and to have finished high school or obtained a GED.

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Under the program, applicants had to have been under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012. They also had to have arrived in the US before their 16th birthday and lived continuously in the country since June 15, 2007.

Susan Church, a prominent Cambridge attorney who represents DACA recipients, said Thursday’s ruling provides relief to her clients and their families.

“This decision caps off a bad week for Donald Trump where his administration’s efforts at undermining and harming the rights of others were rebuked by a very conservative court,” Church said via e-mail. “It goes to show where his administration is aligned.”

Church said her clients “are exhausted with being part of a political football game. This decision gives them a major reprieve and my clients are eternally grateful. But, the Administration could decide again to attack them and it would be better executed with the blueprint the Supreme Court gave them. The November election will be a key method to protect them.”

Groups backing tighter immigration laws, including the Federation for American Immigration Reform, or FAIR, spoke out against the high court ruling Thursday.

Dan Stein, president of FAIR, said the ruling was an “enormous setback” for immigration enforcement and for the separation of powers enumerated in the Constitution.

In implementing DACA in 2012, Stein said in a statement, “President Obama essentially bypassed Congress’ unambiguous authority to make immigration laws. The duly enacted laws of our nation, then and now, are clear that DACA beneficiaries are illegal aliens who have no legal right to live and work in this count.”

Stein said the ruling will “likely lead to future waves of illegal immigration, as people around the world see the opportunity to bring minor children to the United States illegally in the expectation that they will be granted permission to remain permanently.”

Material from the Associated Press and New York Times was used in this report.


Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.