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Supreme Court Rules Against Trump Administration In DACA Case


A conservative chief justice of the United States joined with the liberal wing of the U.S. Supreme Court to produce a 5-to-4 decision today - a dramatic one - involving Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, President Obama program which allowed hundreds of thousands of people brought to the United States as children to remain in the United States with a temporary form of legal status. President Trump attempted to end that program in 2017. Now the Supreme Court has rejected that effort. The president had the right to end the program, the court found, but Chief Justice Roberts wrote that President Trump attempted to do this in a, quote, "arbitrary and capricious way," needed to give reasons, did not do so. Much to discuss in this ruling, which has come down just a little bit more than an hour ago, and we're going to begin outside the Supreme Court. Jose Munoz is on the line. He is a DACA recipient. He is also national communications manager for United We Dream, an organization that advocates for DREAMers. Mr. Munoz, welcome to the program.

JOSE MUNOZ: Hi. Glad to be on.

INSKEEP: Hearing a little bit of noise behind you. Is anything happening there?

MUNOZ: Yeah, you're probably hearing the sounds of young folks. A lot of people are here outside the court. I had to walk down the block so that you could hear me. But I can look at - I can see the court from here and I can see their faces and I can hear their chants.

INSKEEP: You're telling me that if you had been right on the steps of the Supreme Court, we would have been - you would've been completely drowned out. There's that much noise and that many people.

MUNOZ: You would not have been able to hear me. You know, today's decision from the Supreme Court is really a victory for immigrant young people. Immigrant young people of United We Dream fought for a world free of deportation before 2012. And that's what ended up being DACA. And so what you're hearing if you're near the Supreme Court is you're hearing those young people who are claiming that victory in this moment.

INSKEEP: Mr. Munoz, how old are you and what is your story?

MUNOZ: I'm 29. I actually turn 30 tomorrow, so this is a really great early birthday gift.

INSKEEP: Happy birthday.

MUNOZ: I came to the United States when I was 3 months old with my parents, so I will have been living in the U.S. for 30 years a little bit later on this year.

INSKEEP: And what country were your parents from, and I guess where were you born?

MUNOZ: Mexico. We came here from Mexico, and I grew up in Minneapolis.

INSKEEP: So have you spent the last several months considering the prospect that you would be sent back to this country that you only ever knew as a resident for a few months?

MUNOZ: You know, I really wasn't. My family has been here for so long. I grew up in Minneapolis, like I mentioned. And so regardless of what the court decided, I knew that my home was here, and that's the same thing for millions of other young folks. And thankfully today the Supreme Court really backed up the power of young people who are organizing, very similar to the organizing that we're actually seeing taking place across the country with young black leaders who are taking to the streets to demand that black lives matter.

INSKEEP: I think I'm hearing you saying that you had faith the country wouldn't let you down.

MUNOZ: Yeah.

INSKEEP: And that you felt certain that you would be able to stay. Nevertheless, your status is unresolved, as we've been hearing this morning since this decision a little more than an hour ago. The Trump administration is blocked from ending DACA because they did it the wrong way. It's conceivable they could get started trying again and try to do it the right way. It's conceivable another president could do something like that. How do you see your future?

MUNOZ: Yeah. I think what you're sharing is a really important point. You know, the Trump administration has really made it very clear over the last four years that they want to make life as difficult as possible for immigrants in this country. And DACA really was one of the ways that they were trying to do that. And so in this moment, you know, there is the possibility that the Department of Homeland Security through the Trump administration tries to end DACA a different way. And so it's important to remember that the fight continues.

The other thing is that, you know, DACA protects less than a million people. And there are over 11 million undocumented people in this country. And so the fight that immigrant young people, the fight that DACA recipients and other undocumented folks who are outside of the Supreme Court chanting about, that continues. And also we should remember that black immigrants in this moment are much more likely to potentially face deportation than other immigrants because of the dangers of policing and militarization in our communities.

INSKEEP: Do you have - do you want U.S. citizenship?

MUNOZ: I want to live in a world where everyone is able to live free and thrive. And what we have seen over the last couple of years and what we're hearing, actually, over the last couple weeks in the streets is that for many people in this country, citizenship is not what's going to allow them to do that.

INSKEEP: Citizenship is - explain what you mean by that.

INSKEEP: Yeah. So when we're thinking about people like Breonna Taylor, like George Floyd, like Tony McDade, citizenship did not help them from the dangers of police brutality. And that is the same for black immigrants and black DACA recipients across the country. And so what we're fighting for is so much bigger than that. It is about a world where everyone has the ability to thrive and live free and live free of the dangers of ICE and CBP and police.

INSKEEP: So you're trying to fight on several fronts at once. But what about you personally? Do you intend to become a citizen if you were given the opportunity at some point?

MUNOZ: Definitely.

INSKEEP: OK. Mr. Munoz, thank you very much. I really appreciate your time.

MUNOZ: Yeah. Thank you so much, great to be on.

INSKEEP: Jose Munoz is a DACA recipient, national communications manager for United We Dream. He's outside the Supreme Court where we were able to hear people cheering.

And as we were speaking, we got a comment from the president of the United States. I'm just going to read a couple of comments on Twitter from President Trump. Quote, "These horrible and politically charged decisions coming out of the Supreme Court are shotgun blasts into the face of people that are proud to call themselves Republicans or conservatives. We need more justices or we will lose our Second Amendment and everything else. Vote Trump 2020" - exclamation point. That is a comment from the president of the United States after this decision by Chief Justice John Roberts of the Supreme Court, an appointee of the Republican President George W. Bush. The president has given a second tweet here. Quote, "Do you get the impression that the Supreme Court doesn't like me?" - unquote. President Trump speaking today.

Let's go now to NPR's Nina Totenberg, who covers the Supreme Court. Nina, how you doing this morning?

NINA TOTENBERG, BYLINE: I'm fascinated. And those tweets are - the second tweet is that the president thinks this is about him, and what the court said is quite to the contrary. It's not even about the policies themselves. It's the way you went about doing them. You didn't file the - follow the rules. And there's a wonderful quote that the chief justice has from the famous Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. He says, men must turn square corners when they deal with the government. But it is also true, particularly when so much is at stake, that the government should turn square corners in dealing with the people. And the square corners here, he said, are not what the administration did. It said - it made a blanket assertion that DACA is illegal and was illegal from the get-go - period, stop, et cetera.

And then it went on months later when it went to court to make some post hoc rationalizations added to that to say, well, that cures whatever defects we had when we didn't present all the reasons, the good reasons, that we think justify doing this - nor, said the court, are you correct that we don't have the right to review what you did. Because the first assertion that the administration meant was that the courts had no business interfering in this at all.

INSKEEP: Yeah. The president has said I can do anything I want in some other contexts. The court is telling him you can do a lot of things, but you have to do them properly. And I appreciate the addition to my lexicon there, turn square corners - I guess that's the opposite of cutting a corner.

TOTENBERG: I think that's right.

INSKEEP: Nina, stay with us because NPR's John Burnett covers the border and covers many immigration stories and is also on the line. John, we have already heard from one DACA recipient and heard his perspective. Can you multiply that reaction out? What is it like that this is affecting hundreds of thousands of people at once?

JOHN BURNETT, BYLINE: My gosh - elation, surprise, relief, tears. And that's on one side of the country. And I'm reading responses from immigration restrictionists now who are just sputtering mad - Federation for American Immigration Reform, an enormous setback for efforts to enforce U.S. immigration laws, saying that this will continue to be a magnet to lead future waves of undocumented immigrants to come to the country and bring their children. But, you know, I remember what Sue Davis was saying in the last hour, that in some ways there may be some relief on Capitol Hill, you know, even among Republicans. I mean, you just - you can't rule out the climate that we've been living in, Steve. You know, the Black Lives Matter protests have just been winding down, and I can imagine that the streets would fill up again with infuriated Latinos. There in front of the Supreme Court right now, we heard from Jose Munoz in gratitude, but just imagine this would have - you know, we're living in this pressure cooker now. And, again, this would have just, you know, kept the drama at such a high level and who knows for how long. So in some ways, this ruling relieves the pressure, but, you know, it certainly hadn't made the president happy.

INSKEEP: Well...

TOTENBERG: You know, can I...

INSKEEP: ...You mentioned one thing that I want - very briefly, Nina Totenberg, very briefly.

TOTENBERG: You know, the president always thought - his administration thought when they won this that they could use it as leverage to get more money for the wall. But they - now, A, they don't have the leverage and, B, they've used other money for the wall creating further legal issues.

INSKEEP: John Burnett, one very brief point here at the end. You mentioned the criticism from immigration restrictionists about enforcing the law. We should be frank about this. These are people here who are in violation of the law and it is not clear how the law is going to be changed to address their situation. We still don't know the answer to this story, do we?

BURNETT: Not at all. And they - you know, they're still needing a path to citizenship if they're going to be here legally. And that is squarely in front of Congress now.

INSKEEP: NPR's John Burnett and NPR's Nina Totenberg with analysis of a Supreme Court decision blocking the Trump administration from ending DACA. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.