AILSA CHANG, HOST:
Young immigrants were elated by last month's Supreme Court ruling on DACA. The high court said the Trump administration didn't go about ending the popular program correctly, and many immigration lawyers thought that would mean DACA had to be restarted to allow new applications. But that hasn't happened yet, and critics say that's a clear violation of the court's order, as NPR's Joel Rose reports.
JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: On paper, the Supreme Court ruling looked like a win for young immigrants like Diego. Right away, he applied for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals - better known as DACA - to get the work permit and the protection from deportation that come with it.
DIEGO: It's life-changing. It really is. So we can go on with our lives without, you know, fearing to get deported the next day or, you know, never seeing my mom again or never seeing my brother again.
ROSE: We're not using Diego's last name because he was brought to the country illegally as a child. Now he's 17, heading into his senior year of high school outside Detroit, and he wants to go to college. But his DACA application was rejected. Tamara French is Diego's lawyer.
TAMARA FRENCH: It's just so unfortunate when you have an administration that doesn't even give full credit to the Supreme Court. And that's where we're at.
ROSE: Right now there are hundreds of thousands of Diegos in this country - young people who would be eligible to sign up for DACA, except that the Trump administration is still not accepting new first-time applications, even after the Supreme Court's ruling. That has immigration lawyers fuming.
BILL HING: That's insane. That's a violation of the order.
ROSE: Bill Hing teaches law at the University of San Francisco. Hing says it's been nearly a month since the Supreme Court's ruling. So, technically, that order should be in full effect, and DACA should be operating exactly the way it was before the administration moved to end it.
HING: Legally, there's no basis to reject any new applications. This is an example of politics reigning over law.
ROSE: The Trump administration has long maintained that DACA was created illegally by President Obama. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency that handles DACA applications, says the administration is still reviewing the Supreme Court's decision and referred us back to the agency's statement from last month that the high court's ruling has, quote, "no basis in law." The agency is renewing DACA status for the roughly 650,000 people who already have it, but new applicants are out of luck - or are they?
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We're going to work on DACA because we want to make people happy. And I'll tell you, even conservative Republicans want to see something happen with DACA.
ROSE: President Trump has flip-flopped on DACA for years. It was no different after the Supreme Court ruling. At first, Trump said he would move quickly to terminate the program again. But in recent days, he's softened. Last night, he said he would protect DACA recipients.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
TRUMP: We're going to be signing an immigration act very soon. It's going to be based on merit. It's going to be very strong.
ROSE: But immigrant advocates are skeptical. Marielena Hincapie directs the National Immigration Law Center, which helped bring one of the DACA cases that went up to the Supreme Court. She thinks the Trump administration is deliberately dragging its feet.
MARIELENA HINCAPIE: He has continued to make threats to end this very successful, popular DACA policy, while making, you know, these nonsensical and confusing statements that create a level of stress and anxiety for DACA recipients and their family members.
ROSE: Hincapie says immigrant advocates are ready to go back to court to defend DACA and, if necessary, to force the administration to reopen the program to thousands of young immigrants who are waiting for a chance to apply.
Joel Rose, NPR News.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.