Court decision all but nullifies March 5 deadline for 'Dreamers'

The Supreme Court on Monday decided to stay out of the legal fight surrounding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, all but nullifying a March 5 deadline for congressional action set by President TrumpDonald John TrumpRosenstein expected to leave DOJ next month: reports Allies wary of Shanahan's assurances with looming presence of Trump States file lawsuit seeking to block Trump's national emergency declaration MORE.

The court’s decision means an injunction preventing the Trump administration from unwinding the program will remain in place as the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals continues its review.

Andrew Pincus, a Supreme Court litigator and partner at Mayer Brown, a Washington, D.C.-based law firm, said the earliest a decision could be expected from the appeals courts would be in June or July.

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“We’re certainly looking at a matter of a significant number of months,” Pincus said.

A few weeks ago, it seemed likely that the fight over DACA and "Dreamers," as DACA recipients are commonly called, would dominate the congressional agenda this month.

Immigration issues have fallen to the side, however, after gun control raced to the top of the political agenda in the aftermath of the Florida high school shooting that left 17 people dead.

It’s left an uncertain road forward for DACA recipients and lawmakers pressing their case. While people protected by DACA can renew their applications, they could lose their status if the courts ultimately side with Trump, who argues the Obama-era program is unconstitutional.

“Today’s decision means that current DACA recipients can continue to submit DACA renewal applications as long as the 9th Circuit injunction remains in place,” said Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairwoman Rep. Michelle Lujan GrishamMichelle Lynn Lujan GrishamDems ready aggressive response to Trump emergency order, as GOP splinters New Mexico House speaker rejects impeachment push against governor over border troop decision California governor to pull back troops from border: report MORE (D-N.M.).

“However, DACA recipients will continue to face uncertainty until Republicans and Trump can agree to a fair and narrow bipartisan solution for Dreamers.”

Congress has made little progress on a legislative solution, with Trump and Republicans demanding that a DACA fix be coupled with changes to other immigration programs and money for Trump’s wall on the Mexican border.

A spokesman for the White House railed against DACA and the lower court in a statement.

“The district judge’s decision unilaterally to re-impose a program that Congress had explicitly and repeatedly rejected is a usurpation of legislative authority,” deputy press secretary Raj Shah said in a Monday statement.

“The fact that this occurs at a time when elected representatives in Congress are actively debating this policy only underscores that the district judge has unwisely intervened in the legislative process,” he added.

DACA gives two-year permits to certain immigrants who entered the country illegally as children so they can work and go to school in the United States; after March 5, people who were not given the opportunity to renew their permits would have nonetheless lost them.

Nearly 20,000 DACA recipients lost their benefits following Trump’s announcement in September that he was ending the program. These people failed to apply for renewal in the month granted to them by the Trump administration.

Under the injunction, beneficiaries who were covered by DACA in September — including those who didn't renew — are allowed to apply for a two-year renewal of their permit.

The injunction does not protect people who would have aged into DACA, leaving the youngest “Dreamers” subject to deportation and without documentation to allow them to work or go to school.

The nearly 800,000 people who did get DACA status at some point will be allowed to apply for renewal, although the glut of applications is expected to create lapses in coverage for certain beneficiaries. For some, that will mean losing their work permits — and if employed, their jobs — at least temporarily.

Of those 800,000 people, more than 100,000 left the program, either because they were expelled from it, they left the country or they received a different immigration status. Former DACA beneficiaries will be allowed to reapply while the injunction lasts as long as they weren't removed from the program for criminal or gang behavior. Since the program's inception, about 2,000 beneficiaries were expelled from DACA for criminal acts.

“We are grateful that immigrant young people who have DACA will have time to renew, but most immigrant young people are not protected,” said Greisa Martínez, a DACA recipient and advocacy director for United We Dream, an immigrant youth advocacy group. She said a permanent solution was necessary.

The Justice Department's request to challenge the lower court ruling was rare in that it asked the Supreme Court to jump ahead of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in reviewing the case.

The court typically will only bypass an appellate court when there’s an emergency involving foreign affairs, a serious separation of powers concerns or when it has already agreed to hear another case dealing with the same question.

California Attorney General Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraStates file lawsuit seeking to block Trump's national emergency declaration Several states to join California lawsuit against Trump’s border emergency declaration John Oliver to Trump: ‘There is zero emergency at the border right now’ MORE (D) said the Trump administration's attempts to circumvent the appeals process have actually slowed down the process.

“You could let the Trump administration know the court would run its course faster if the Trump administration would stop appealing every decision,” he said.

Lydia Wheeler contributed to this story.