In a bravura interagency pageant of incompetence, the Trump administration managed today to wrest defeat from the jaws of victory. The Supreme Court decided in favor of the “Dreamers” in Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California, the blockbuster case weighing the fate of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program announced in 2012 by the Obama administration. The impressive thing about the loss was that its reason was precisely the same one that cost Donald Trump his coveted victory in Department of Commerce v. New York, the high-profile “citizenship question” census case last year.
The Court held, 5–4, that the administration’s purported “rescission” of DACA was “arbitrary and capricious,” and thus had to be, at the very least, redone. At least for now, America’s Dreamers can stay.
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion, joined by Associate Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor. Today’s decision focused entirely on the administration’s ham-fisted botching of Administrative Procedure Act requirements. Roberts’s opinion left open the possibility that a properly executed rescission might stand. It wasn’t all good news for the Dreamers, though: Citing President Trump’s frequent attacks on immigrants, they had asked the Court to hold that the rescission also violated the equal-protection requirements of the Fifth Amendment—the hoped-for kiss of death for a new attempt. A hornbook principle of constitutional law is that the government can’t do much of anything just on the grounds that it hates (or feels “animus” toward) certain kinds of people. But four of the five justices in the majority demurred.