Former Vice President Joe Biden is pledging, if elected, to send a bill to Congress regarding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program on “day one” of his administration in response to Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling.
The presumptive Democrat nominee, who has faced opposition over his stance on immigration from segments of his party’s base, made the announcement shortly after the Court issued a ruling in Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California.
In a five-to-four decision, with Chief Justice John Roberts casting the pivotal vote, the Court found that President Donald Trump had failed to give an adequate reason for ending DACA, an Obama-era program that granted protections for illegal immigrants brought to the United States as minors. Roberts and the majority, in particular, argued that the Trump administration did not follow procedural rules governing the termination of national programs by federal agencies.
The decision, however, did not claim it was unconstitutional for Trump to end DACA, but rather took issue with the manner in which that attempt was originally conducted. In fact, the Chief Justice noted toward the end of his opinion that the Department of Homeland Security could revise its legal strategy for administering DACA at any point.
Biden, for his part, seemed to grasp the legal uncertainty still facing the program and its recipients on Thursday, asserting that only Congress could ensure the protections granted by DACA remained permanent.
“The Supreme Court’s ruling today is a victory made possible by the courage and resilience of hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients who bravely stood up and refused to be ignored,” the former vice president said. Promising that as president, he would “work to make [the protections offered through DACA] permanent by sending a bill to Congress on day one of my administration.”
“The joy of today’s victory does not erase the difficult road ahead,” Biden added. “We know that much work remains to be done.”
DACA, which was established by President Barack Obama via executive order in June 2012, granted legal protections to nearly 800,000 illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. before the age of 16. The program had long been controversial, with many on the right arguing it circumvented not only existing immigration statute, but also Congress’s lawmaking powers.
In September 2017, Trump made a similar argument when opting to rescind the program. At the time, the president claimed DACA was conceived through executive overreach and that if Congress wanted to protect the status of Dreamers, those covered by the program, it should act by passing legislation.
Although initially hopes were high that Congress would be able to fashion a compromise, momentum stalled in early 2018 over whether any permanent fix for DACA would include a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and protections from deportation for their parents. Furthermore, there were divisions between Democrats and Republicans if any compromise should be paired with broader funding for immigration enforcement or Trump’s border wall.
Now with Trump’s initial rescission of DACA being found unlawful by the Supreme Court, it is unclear if the White House will attempt to terminate the program again. If so, it appears unrealistic that Trump and Congress would be able to broker a deal on Dreamers before the presidential election. The likelihood seems especially improbable because Congress is already laboring to address the coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout, as well as police reform.
Federal inaction before November, though, may present an opportunity for Biden. Since jumping into the 2020 race, the former vice president has struggled to expand his support among young Latino voters, many of whom favored Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) during the primary contest.
Most of Biden’s trouble with Latino voters stems from the Obama administration’s record of deporting three million illegal aliens between 2009 and 2017. Biden, who ran heavily on his ties to the former president during the Democrat primaries, has been forced to defend the Obama-era deportations time and again.
The defense has only been accentuated by the often antagonistic manner that Biden has taken with immigration activists, as exhibited last November during a particularly heated interaction on the campaign trail.
“I will not stop all deportations. I will prioritize deportations, only people who have committed a felony or a serious crime,” Biden told an activist from Movimiento Cosecha, before suggesting that if he was not happy with the stance he “should vote for Trump.”
Moments like that potentially explain why the former vice president polls ten percent lower than Hillary Clinton did in 2016 among Hispanic voters. Among the demographic, support, for DACA often polls exceptionally high.
As such, many believe a strong push on DACA, were it to become a big election-year issue, could help the former vice president make up a part of his deficit among Hispanic voters. It may not, however, be enough, given that Trump won 28 percent of the Latino vote in 2016, even while running as an avowed supporter of immigration restrictions.
Colin Strother, a Texas-based Democrat strategist, told Breitbart News, “the assumption that Hispanic voters would back Democrats no matter what” stopped being practical after the 2000 presidential election.
“The challenge for [Biden] is overcoming … what happened during his years as vice president. DACA is pretty low-hanging fruit and I do not think that DACA alone will be enough to energize the Hispanic community behind him,” he said.
Strother added that since DACA involved “innocent children who were brought here without their knowledge or input now being punished or at least not afforded the same privileges as everyone else,” leading legislation to grant permanent protections for Dreamers was “the least that Biden could propose.”
“In order to really galvanize support in the community behind him, he will need to be much more aggressive on the separation of families, asylum-seekers, and comprehensive immigration reform,” he said.