“Dreamer” students outside the Supreme Court, Washington DC, June 18, 2020 (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

The Supreme Court prevents the Trump Administration from ending protections for young “Dreamer” immigrants, prompting Donald Trump’s threat to replace the justices.

Chief Justice John Roberts, joining the Court’s four moderates, wrote the majority opinion which effectively prevents the Administration from deporting about 700,000 immigrants. The “Dreamers”, the children of undocumented immigrants, are protected under Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program established in 2012.

Roberts said the Administration did not follow proper procedure in seeking to end protected status:

We do not decide whether DACA or its rescission are sound policies. We address only whether the agency complied with the procedural requirement that it provide a reasoned explanation for its action.

Trump, driven by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and anti-immigrant advisors Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller and Kris Kobach, announced in September 2017 that he would end DACA. But Roberts said the Administration’s justification was “arbitrary and capricious”.

The Chief Justice said Trump and his advisors could seek justifications in a revised order. However, that will take months to prepare and defend against legal action.

And Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden pledged that, if he wins November’s election, “on his first day in office” he will launch a program enabling Dreamers to become citizens.

Dreamers, civil rights activists, and their supporters were surprised and elated by the discussion.

“I’m actually still shaking,” said Joana Cabrera, who came to the US from the Philippines at age 9.

Now 24, she is on a team researching the use of robots in Coronavirus testing. “I’m unbelievably happy because I was expecting the worst,” she explained.

The defeat was the third for the Trump Administration this week. On Monday, Roberts and conservative Justice Neal Gorsuch joined the moderates in protecting civil rights for gay and transgender workers. The Court also refused to hear a case allowing the Trump Administration to punish “sanctuary cities” who host undocumented immigrants.

See TrumpWatch, Day 1,243: Supreme Court Upholds Civil Rights for Gay and Transgender Workers

Trump: “We Need More Justices”

Trump vented his fury via Twitter, threatening — in defiance of the Constitution — to pack the Court:

He sneered, “Do you get the impression that the Supreme Court doesn’t like me?”, and indicated he would try to push aside the current judges:

In 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt tried to expand the Court from 9 to 15 justices to obtain favorable rulings for New Deal legislation. The Senate held up the proposal, and it never went to a vote.

To be eligible for DACA, applicants must show that they had committed no serious crimes, had arrived in the United States before they turned 16 and were no older than 30, had lived in the US for the previous five years, and were in school, had graduated from high school or received an equivalent certificate, or were an honorably discharged veteran.

Roberts wrote in the decision that Dreamers had “enrolled in degree programs, embarked on careers, started businesses, purchased homes and even married and had children”. He noted that exclusion of DACA recipients from the workforce could cost $215 billion in lost economic activity and $60 billion in federal tax revenues over the next decade.

The Chief Justice said Acting Health and Human Services Secretary Elaine Duke, in her brief note declaring DACA illegal, “should have considered those matters but did not. That failure was arbitrary and capricious.”