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The head of ICE says he will deport DREAMers if the Supreme Court ends DACA

Chief Justice Roberts needs to watch this video before he lets Trump end DACA.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts sitting at a desk wearing his judicial robe.
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts presides over impeachment proceedings against US President Donald Trump.
Senate Television via Getty Images
Ian Millhiser is a senior correspondent at Vox, where he focuses on the Supreme Court, the Constitution, and the decline of liberal democracy in the United States. He received a JD from Duke University and is the author of two books on the Supreme Court.

Matthew Albence, acting director of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said on Thursday that ICE will deport immigrants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program if the Supreme Court strikes it down later this year. That statement seems to contradict Chief Justice John Roberts’s understanding that such deportations will not happen.

Last November, the Supreme Court heard three cases asking whether the Trump administration followed proper procedures when it tried to wind down DACA, which allows hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants to live and work in the United States.

The conservative court is likely to side with the Trump administration, though there is a chance the justices may first require the administration to draft a new memo explaining why it wants to end the program. The cases are Trump v. NAACP, McAleenan v. Vidal, and Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California.

During oral arguments in November, Roberts minimized the consequences facing DACA beneficiaries should the program be terminated. Both the Obama and the Trump administration, Roberts claimed, “have said they’re not going to deport the people.”

In a 2017 tweet, President Trump wrote, “Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military? Really!” That tweet was widely read as referencing DACA recipients, a.k.a. DREAMers.

Trump took a decidedly different tone in November, tweeting that “many of the people in DACA ... are far from ‘angels.’”

DACA provides a number of advantages to immigrants who participate in the program, including assurances that they will not be deported, authorization to work in the United States, and access to certain federal benefits. During oral arguments, Roberts suggested that what’s really at stake in the DACA cases is whether beneficiaries will lose “work authorization and the other things.”

The chief justice appears to believe the Trump administration won’t deport former DACA participants if the Supreme Court rules against them. But, according to Albence, Roberts is wrong.

DACA beneficiaries are immigrants who came to the United States before their 16th birthday and have lived in this country since 2007. Anyone with a felony or significant misdemeanor conviction is ineligible for DACA status. As Trump’s 2017 tweet noted, many served in the US military.

One of the central issues in oral arguments was whether the Trump administration did enough to “take responsibility” for its decision to end the DACA program. As Justice Sonia Sotomayor suggested, if the administration wants to “destroy lives,” the law requires it to offer a fuller explanation of why.

A similar logic could be applied to Roberts. If Roberts is going to rule against DACA beneficiaries, he should at least be cognizant of the full consequences of his decision.