The Supreme Court voted Thursday to block the Trump administration from overturning an Obama-era program that protects some 700,000 undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children from being deported. The 5-4 decision shields the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, or DACA, representing a win for some of the tech industry's biggest names, who have fought for years to protect the program, as well as their workers who benefit from it.
In an opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts, the court ruled that the Trump administration's decision to rescind DACA protections in 2017, was "arbitrary and capricious," which constitutes a violation of the Administrative Procedure Act.
DACA recipients cheered the decision on the court steps, joining hands and chanting in unison, "Home is here."
The tech industry quickly applauded the decision, too. "As an amicus in this case and an employer of Dreamers, we commend the Supreme Court's decision," Google spokesperson Jose Castaneda told Protocol. "It's good for our economy and most importantly, it is fair to Dreamers."
"Dreamers reflect the vital role that immigrants have always played in this country," IBM's senior vice president and chief human resources officer, Diane Gherson, said in a statement. "This has never been more evident than during this pandemic, with nearly 27,000 Dreamers health care workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis response."
Since the DACA program was created in 2012, some of the country's top tech executives, even those who often avoid staking out territory on political issues, have been emphatic in their support for DACA recipients.
In 2017, shortly after the Trump administration announced its intention to repeal DACA, Mark Zuckerberg held a livestream with Dreamers, calling the administration's actions "one of the most troubling things that I've seen in a long time in our country." The lobbying firm he founded, FWD.us, has been a leading advocate for DACA protections in Washington ever since the rule first came under threat in legal cases during the Obama years.
"This ruling was only possible because of the courage and resiliency of hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients who bravely stood up and refused to be ignored," FWD.us President Todd Schulte said in a statement. "It is a decision we will fight to protect."
For the tech industry, this fight has been deeply personal. In 2017, Tim Cook wrote in a note to Apple employees that 250 of its workers are DACA recipients. Last year, he filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court, supporting the DACA program. IBM's former CEO Ginni Rometty met personally with Congress and the White House to advocate on this issue, and in 2017, the company sent 30 Dreamers to Washington, D.C., to meet with lawmakers. Also in 2017, Microsoft went so far as to file a lawsuit against the Trump administration on behalf of its DACA recipient employees.
"Dreamers are Americans in every way but on paper and want to continue to contribute their talent and entrepreneurial spirit to advance the U.S. economy," Jason Oxman, president and CEO of the tech lobbying firm ITI, said in a statement. "These young men and women are our friends, neighbors and colleagues."
The court's decision stopped short of ruling that the Trump administration's actions constituted a violation of the Fifth Amendment's equal protection guarantee. Such a ruling would have been a stronger defense against further efforts to overturn DACA. Rather, the court's decision hinges on the procedural steps the administration took in rescinding the rule. That means DACA is still vulnerable to being overturned in the future, barring some action by Congress.
In her statement, IBM's Gherson pushed lawmakers to act. "While today's verdict gives DACA recipients some temporary relief," Gherson wrote, "we urge Congress in the strongest possible voice to pass a bipartisan legislative solution that will provide the permanent sense of security the Dreamers deserve."