Democrats turn to public opinion as Supreme Court decision looms over DACA

Democrats turn to public opinion as Supreme Court decision looms over DACA
© Greg Nash

A broad majority of Americans support maintaining legal protections for so-called Dreamers, according to a survey conducted by a Democratic polling firm ahead of the Supreme Court's expected decision on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

The survey conducted by Hart Research for the Center for American Progress Action Fund (CAPAF), although partisan in nature, reflects past polls on the matter: It shows 70 percent of voters overall support the program, while 21 percent oppose it.

The midterm elections and a bipartisan effort to replace DACA in statute led to a flurry of such polls in 2018; one CBS News poll showed 87 percent of respondents favored letting DACA recipients stay in the country, and a Pew Research poll showed support at 74 percent.

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A Hart Research memo with the findings reviewed by The Hill shows the Democratic research firm suggests voters are responsive to the narrative of DACA beneficiaries working in essential jobs during the coronavirus pandemic.

But DACA supporters are concerned that a Supreme Court ruling could compound an already difficult situation as the pandemic continues to unfold.

The Supreme Court is due to rule soon on President TrumpDonald John TrumpUSPS warns Pennsylvania mail-in ballots may not be delivered in time to be counted Michael Cohen book accuses Trump of corruption, fraud Trump requests mail-in ballot for Florida congressional primary MORE's 2017 order to rescind the Obama-era program, which allows around 700,000 undocumented immigrants who arrived in the country as minors to live and work in the United States.

Lower courts have generally limited Trump's immigration initiatives, but the Supreme Court has granted the administration major wins in its signature policy arena.

The CAPAF survey asked respondents whether DACA beneficiaries should be allowed to stay in the United States even if the Supreme Court rules in favor of Trump's order to dismantle the program.

According to the survey, 72 percent of respondents said Trump should wait to dismantle DACA even if he's backed up by the court, while 28 percent said he should immediately terminate the program.

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A reversal on DACA would come as a surprise to the administration, which has prevailed on 5-4 votes on major immigration issues, including decisions that allowed the administration to implement a travel ban against visitors from some countries, and to shift funds for its border wall. 

It would also cast further uncertainty over the 700,000 or so beneficiaries, who up to now continue to be able to renew their permits every two years with the Department of Homeland Security.

For Democrats, defending DACA is central to building the coalition they help to build to win in November: The program continuously polls highly among liberals, and especially among Hispanics.

A February Pew Research poll showed that 86 percent of Hispanics, including 92 percent of Democrats and 77 percent of Republicans, support granting permanent legal status to DACA recipients.