Leading Immigration Scholars Submit Amicus Briefs on DACA to the U.S. Supreme Court

October 24, 2019

A group of prominent immigration scholars recently submitted an amicus brief to the Supreme Court of the United States regarding DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). Among the social scientists who submitted the brief, several are affiliated with the Russell Sage Foundation. These scholars include RSF authors Catalina Amuedo-Dorantes (University of California, Merced), Frank Bean (University of California, Irvine), Susan K. Brown (University of California, Irvine), Robert Courtney Smith (Baruch College, CUNY), Douglas Massey (Princeton University), and Mary Waters (Harvard University), current visiting scholar Amy Hsin (Queens College, CUNY), and RSF grantee Caitlin Patler (University of California, Davis). 

DACA protects immigrants who arrived as children in the United States before 2007 without papers to avoid deportation to their home countries and apply for work permits. The executive order, initiated during the administration of President Barack Obama in 2012, covers approximately 700,000 “Dreamers” and has been threatened by the current administration; its legality will likely be considered by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2020.

The experts who contributed to the brief outline the ways that DACA has markedly improved the lives of those covered by its statutes. DACA recipients have increased their incomes and labor market participation and are more able to continue their education and access important public services, such as securing drivers’ licenses. The brief’s authors cite research which demonstrates that undocumented status has profound negative effects on educational attainment and income, and can be a precursor for psychological problems; it can impact not just the undocumented individual, but the entire family for generations. Poverty rates for children of undocumented parents are much higher than for children of native-born parents, and undocumented youth are less likely to graduate high school and attend college than native-born peers. The authors illustrate the ways that rescinding DACA could negatively impact the U.S. citizen children of DACA recipients, including profound financial and emotional consequences.

Another amicus brief submitted to the Supreme Court by 124 immigration law scholars addresses “the power of the Executive Branch to craft and deploy immigration-related deferred action policies,” arguing that the Trump administration’s decision to rescind DACA, based on its alleged unconstitutionality and illegality, is not based on legal precedent or historical practice. The scholars cite historical examples of the executive branch’s use of prosecutorial discretion in immigration enforcement to allow deferred action for protected classes of immigrants. The protected categories of immigrants previously extended deferred action include widowers, survivors of domestic abuse, and Liberian, Polish, and Hungarian nationals. Among the signatories to this brief are RSF author, grantee, and former visiting scholar Rubén G. Rumbaut (University of California, Irvine).

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