Mr. Trump’s decision to end the DACA program was the culmination of a concerted effort by some of his most anti-immigrant advisers who believed it was imperative that the president follow through on the promise he made during the campaign.
Stephen K. Bannon, the president’s chief strategist during his first six months in office, worked with Kris Kobach, the former Kansas secretary of state and an ardent opponent of immigration, to orchestrate a legal challenge to Mr. Obama’s DACA program. Along with Jeff Sessions, then the attorney general, Mr. Bannon and Mr. Kobach convinced the president that he should order an end to DACA or the courts would do it for him.
The upshot of the internal debate was a bare-bones memo from Elaine C. Duke, then the acting secretary of homeland security. She offered no policy reasons for the move, saying only that DACA was unlawful.
Chief Justice Roberts wrote that Ms. Duke’s rationale was inadequate. She had failed to consider, he wrote, two important points: the degree to which recipients had come to rely on the program and the possibility of deferring deportations even if other benefits, like the right to work, were eliminated.
Young immigrants, Chief Justice Roberts wrote, quoting from a brief, had “enrolled in degree programs, embarked on careers, started businesses, purchased homes and even married and had children” in reliance on the program. Excluding DACA recipients from the work force, he wrote, could result in the loss of $215 billion in economic activity and $60 billion in federal tax revenues over the next decade.
“Acting Secretary Duke should have considered those matters but did not,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote. “That failure was arbitrary and capricious.”
Had the administration simply grappled with those issues and nonetheless declared that it was changing direction as a matter of policy, Chief Justice Roberts suggested, the termination of DACA would have been a routine exercise of executive discretion.