WASHINGTON – In politics, unlike journalism, a deadline is often not a deadline.
That's precisely the case regarding the "Dreamers," the 800,000 or so young undocumented immigrants brought to America by their parents.
President Trump announced last September that he was upending President Barack Obama's executive order creating a program where the Dreamers could get temporary legal status. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA for short, would expire March 5 unless Congress acted to preserve it, the president said.
Congress, characteristically, has not acted.
But the courts, characteristically, did.
The Supreme Court Monday announced that it would not rush to hear a case from the lowest level of federal courts, where judges have blocked Trump's decision to end the DACA program. Instead, those cases will have to go to federal appeals courts before the Supreme Court will even consider hearing it.
For the Supreme Court, that's fairly standard procedure. But in this case, fairly standard procedure gives the Dreamers a break they weren't expecting.
They can now apply to have their work permits renewed despite the March 5 deadline. So they can breathe easy, for a while – at least until the case winds its way through the federal court system.
That could take some time. Two federal appeals courts – the left-leaning Second and Ninth Circuits – will have to hear DACA cases before the Supreme Court does. That means it's almost certain that the Supreme Court won't hear a DACA case until sometime this fall, and likely won't rule until sometime next year.
Depending on the political winds, then, a very different Congress could end up dealing with the DACA issue. Democrats have a decent chance of winning the House and a slim chance of even winning the Senate. Since Democrats are almost uniformly pro-immigration, a Democratic sweep in the fall would make it much easier for the next Congress to devise a solution for the Dreamers, so long as it can draw up something Trump would agree with.
For now, though, DACA remains on life support. And that is perhaps the best thing the Dreamers can expect at this point.
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