In a narrow decision hailed as a victory for immigrants’ rights, the US Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that the Trump administration’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was “arbitrary and capricious,” and thus invalid under a federal law governing official administrative procedures.
The ruling “saves” the roughly 700,000 beneficiaries of the program, who are often referred to as Dreamers. The beneficiaries are unauthorized immigrants who came to the United States as children; some of them know no other home. The program provides them with work permits and protects them from deportation — protections that the court’s ruling keeps in place.
The decision is welcome, of course. But the justices made it clear that this relief is only temporary. The ruling effectively just buys time for Dreamers — and, crucially, for Congress — to make the protections permanent.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joined the court’s four more liberal justices in deciding the immediate fate of the program, which was created in 2012 by former President Barack Obama. In the majority opinion, written by Roberts, the message to the Trump administration seems to be: you just didn’t cancel DACA the right way.
“The dispute before the Court is not whether DHS may rescind DACA,” wrote Roberts, referring to the Department of Homeland Security, the federal agency that oversees immigration. “All parties agree that it may. The dispute is instead primarily about the procedure the agency followed in doing so.”
In other words, if the Trump administration had been competent enough to dot its “i”s and cross its “t”s correctly, the program would be history. If Trump got reelected, he’d surely be more careful and just might be successful.
If that doesn’t prompt Congress to finally act, it’s unclear what will. Obama was forced to implement the protections via executive order due to Capitol Hill’s inability to codify into law sensible protections for hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants. The pressure now is even higher. The economic mobility and social integration that the initiative has afforded its beneficiaries has been well documented in the eight years the program has been in place.
One thing all members of Congress should be reminded of: there is overwhelming support for Dreamers to stay. A new Pew Research Center survey found that 74 percent of Americans favor giving legal status for immigrants brought illegally to the US as children. And the support is bipartisan: even a majority of Trump voters want to protect Dreamers from deportation. According to a poll conducted by Politico recently, DACA is favored by 68 percent of Republicans, 71 percent of conservatives, and 69 percent of those who voted for Trump in 2016.
Until Congress acts, Dreamers will continue to be used as bargaining chips, no matter who occupies the White House. The fundamental problem — acknowledging the legitimacy of Dreamers — persists and still begs for a permanent solution.
Editorials represent the views of the Boston Globe Editorial Board. Follow us on Twitter at @GlobeOpinion.