Executive Orders about Immigration and DACA: How to Make People Mad

Untangle Immigration began with a story about Japanese internment. That story will continue after exploring the current issue of the Supreme Court decision (announced today, June 18, 2020) regarding DACA.

The Supreme Court did not allow the current administration to rescind DACA protections for law-abiding immigrants brought to the U.S. as minors without documentation. I’d like to look at DACA protections more closely on another day, but first a word about executive orders and policies, in collaboration with my friend, Tiffany Carnefix:

In 2012, then-President Obama signed an executive order creating DACA. This order legally protected from deportation law-abiding people who were brought to the United States without documentation as children. Obama’s order made a lot of people angry because they thought the President shouldn’t have the power to take such an action.

After President Trump took over the Oval Office, he signed many executive orders and made policy changes which have made it more difficult for people to legally immigrate to the United States, angering a whole different set of people. His Justice Department also decided to rescind DACA. The last protections expired in March 2020, pending the court’s decision.

Many people think presidents shouldn’t have the power to take these kinds of actions.

Question: We all learned in school that Congress is the only branch of government that can make laws, so is any of this even legal?

Answer: Yes. Except when it isn’t.

Only Congress can create immigration laws, but since the polarized legislative branch rarely agrees on immigration-related matters, these laws rarely change. The last major changes were made after 9-11, in response to terrorism. These broad immigration laws lack detail, so policies fill in the gaps. A presidential administration can easily and legally make policy decisions or issue executive orders to completely change the way immigration works without ever changing the law.

However, when people complain about these changes and challenge them in court, the courts may declare a policy change or executive order legal or not legal—that is, consistent or inconsistent with existing law. So executive orders may take years to take effect. The courts may also prevent them from becoming policy.

Today the Supreme Court decided that the way DACA was ended does not meet the standard required by law. “We do not decide whether DACA or its rescission are sound policies,” wrote Justice John Roberts. “‘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.”

Immigration policies such as DACA impact hundreds of thousands of people. What a great reminder to pray for decision makers at all levels to “do justly and love mercy,” since God values both.

Photo credit: “The Supreme Court” by WEBN-TV is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

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