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The DACA program protects around 700,000 young immigrants.

Credit: Julio Sosa

The United States Supreme Court upheld the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, rejecting 1968 Wharton graduate and President Donald Trump's plan to terminate the program that protects hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants from deportation. 

Following the ruling, Penn President Amy Gutmann released a statement in Penn Today writing that she was “enormously pleased” by the decision, calling it a “great victory for human rights and the future of America.”

The 5-4 decision will prevent President Trump from continuing with his administration's plan to terminate the Obama-era DACA program, which protects nearly 700,000 'Dreamers,' or young immigrants who were illegally brought to the United States, by protecting them from deportation.

“DACA students have had great success at Penn and have gone on to make invaluable contributions to our community and nation,” Gutmann said. 

The University joined 18 other universities in submitting an amicus brief on October 3 warning the Court that ending DACA “would force future scholars, innovators, and leaders to choose between withdrawing to the margins of our society and national economy or returning to countries that they have never called home.” 

An amicus brief is a legal document written by people who are not involved in the case but have strong interests and expertise in the subject matter.

The brief included testimonies of officials from various universities across the nation, and provided examples of DACA students’ accomplishments, specifically citing 2016 Engineering graduate Alfredo Muniz, an undocumented student from Texas. Muniz won the President’s Innovation Prize for co-founding XEED, a system that aids in data collection and transmittance of limb movement in Parkinson’s disease patients. The brief stated that this project might never have been developed without Muniz’s participation in the DACA program. 

The Supreme Court ruled that the attorney general’s previous repeal of the DACA program “must be vacated,” as the acting secretary who issued the memorandum to terminate the program violated the Administrative Procedure Act. 

“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. Here the agency failed to consider the conspicuous issues of whether to retain forbearance and what if anything to do about the hardship to DACA recipients," Chief Justice John Roberts said at the beginning of the decision

Gutmann’s June 18 statement is not her first show of approval for the DACA program. In response to an open petition signed by over 100 faculty members from all four undergraduate schools, Gutmann wrote a letter in 2017 to the White House urging President Trump “in the strongest terms possible” to continue the DACA program.

“These young people have grown up in our communities, attended our schools, and have both the strong desire and impressive capacity to make vital contributions to our nation's future economic strength and global competitiveness,” Gutmann wrote in the letter. 

Prior to writing the letter to the White House, Gutmann urged Congress to pass legislation in a Penn Almanac statement. “I respectfully call upon Congress to act promptly to pass bipartisan legislation to permanently protect the Dreamers,” the September 2017 statement said. 

The DACA program was created in 2012 by an executive order passed by former U.S. President Barack Obama. It grants work permits, along with a renewable two-year period of deferred action status, to undocumented immigrants in the United States.

To be eligible for the DACA program, applicants must meet certain education requirements, have committed no serious crimes, and have lived in the United States since 2007 ⁠— arriving to the country before they were 16 years old. Applicants also have to be younger than 31 years old at the time of the implementation of the executive order, which was passed eight years ago. 

The program does not, however, offer a pathway to citizenship or permanent legal residency. 

President Trump has voiced conflicting views on the DACA program. While he is now vehemently against the program now, he has praised it before, as recently as 2017.

In addition to Gutmann, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney also voiced his support for the decision, tweeting: “Today’s Supreme Court ruling is a huge victory for our country. Philadelphia stands with DACA recipients, who contribute to our progress and our communities. Dreamers: We respect you, we love you, and we will continue fighting for you.”

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