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Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California

After the Trump Administration took office, the Department of Homeland Security terminated the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), which allowed noncitizens brought to the United States as children to remain in this country, attend school, and work. Individuals, state governments, institutions of higher education, and other organizations filed suits challenging DACA’s rescission in a number of courts. In one of those challenges, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled the DACA rescission unlawful. In another, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld a district court’s preliminary injunction against the termination of the program. In both those cases, the federal government defendants successfully petitioned the Supreme Court for writs of certiorari. In the Supreme Court, the two cases were consolidated with a third case in which the government had filed a similar petition seeking review of a case pending in the Second Circuit, Batalla Vidal and State of New York v. Trump.

In the Supreme Court, one of the government’s principal arguments was that the termination of the DACA program is an unreviewable exercise of enforcement discretion under the Supreme Court’s decision in Heckler v. Chaney. Public Citizen, joined by NRDC and the ACLU, filed an amicus brief explaining that the government’s position runs contrary to decades of precedent under which Chaney applies only to exercises of an agency’s discretion not to bring an enforcement action and does not shield the adoption of enforcement policies from review under the Administrative Procedure Act.

On June 18, 2020, the Supreme Court held that the rescission of the DACA program was arbitrary and capricious, and that the action must be set aside under the Administrative Procedure Act. The Court rejected the government’s argument that the DACA rescission was unreviewable under the reasoning of Heckler v. Chaney.