Frequently asked questions on UC's court case to protect DACA

Department of Homeland Security, et al. v. Regents of the University of California, et al.

On Nov. 12, 2019, lawyers for the University of California (UC) will appear before the U.S. Supreme Court to argue that the Trump administration acted unlawfully when it announced in 2017 that it would rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, commonly referred to as DACA.

Nearly 700,000 undocumented young people who were brought to the United States as children currently rely on DACA for legal permission to live, work and study here. That includes approximately 1,700 UC students.

UC was the first university to file a lawsuit to block the federal government from ending DACA. The university is committed to doing all it can to protect the nation’s DACA recipients and ensure that they are allowed to remain in the country they know as home.

The two questions before the Supreme Court are:

  • Whether the Department of Homeland Security’s decision to terminate the DACA policy is judicially reviewable; and
  • Whether DHS’s decision to end the DACA program is lawful.

Frequently asked questions


What is DACA?

DACA stands for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy. UC President Janet Napolitano authorized the program through an executive memorandum on June 15, 2012 when she was the secretary of Homeland Security for the Obama administration. Under DACA, undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. before the age of 16 and who meet other strict criteria are protected from deportation proceedings for a renewable two-year period, and are eligible to work and study in the U.S.

What are the criteria to receive DACA status?

Recipients must have been under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012; have come to the U.S. before reaching their 16th birthday; and must have continuously resided in the U.S. since June 15, 2007, up to the present time. Recipients must also be in school; have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school; have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate; or be an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States. Additionally, recipients must not be convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more other misdemeanors, and do not pose a threat to national security or public safety.

Who are DACA recipients?

There are nearly 700,000 DACA recipients in the program currently, and roughly 800,000 have participated since the program began. These young people, sometimes referred to as Dreamers, rely on DACA for legal protections that allow them to live, work and study here. They identify as American and often have no memory of the country that they immigrated from.

DACA recipients contribute to society and the economy in important ways. According to a 2019 national study, 90 percent are employed, 40 percent are in college, and many have served in the armed forces. UC’s DACA recipients are studying to be the next generation of doctors, teachers, engineers and other professions that benefit their communities and the country.

Where does DACA stand now, and what is the University of California’s role in defending it?

Despite strong public support for DACA and its recipients, on September 5, 2017, the Trump administration announced plans to end the policy — putting the lives of hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients on hold and their families in jeopardy.

The University of California was the first university to sue the administration, arguing that it acted unlawfully by ending DACA without offering any valid reason. (Read UC’s court brief.)

UC sought and received a court order — also known as an injunction — that temporarily blocked the administration from ending DACA. Since that first injunction was issued, four other federal courts have agreed that the Trump administration acted arbitrarily and capriciously, and presented no valid justification for ending DACA.

Those injunctions have allowed more than 500,000 DACA recipients to extend their authorizations to live and work in the U.S. under the program while the court case proceeds.

On what basis is the University of California challenging the Trump administration’s actions?

In its lawsuit filed with the Northern District of California in September 2017, UC argued that the Trump administration’s decision to rescind DACA was unconstitutional, unjust and unlawful, as well as arbitrary and capricious.

Specifically, the university argued that DHS’s decision was not supported by reasoned decision-making as required by law, and that the administration failed to comply with mandatory procedures required by federal law under the Administrative Procedures Act.

Five federal courts that have considered the issue have sided with UC, ruling that the administration acted arbitrarily and capriciously and, therefore, unlawfully.

What will happen to the nation’s DACA recipients if the program is rescinded?

The record in the case shows that DACA recipients would lose their authorization to work; it would also derail tens of thousands of DACA recipients from continuing their undergraduate- and graduate-level educations because of a lack of support. As stated in its brief, “The University of California alone has 1,700 DACA students whose educations and contributions to the University would be imperiled by the rescission.”

What other protections is the university pursuing?

Leaders at the University of California are seeking bipartisan support in Congress for legislation that would provide long-term legal protections for DACA recipients, along with a path to citizenship. UC President Janet Napolitano in 2016 issued a Statement of Principles in Support of Undocumented Members of the UC Community, affirming UC’s commitment to vigorously protect the privacy and civil rights of undocumented students, as it does all members of its community.

Across its 10 campuses, UC has established many services to support DACA recipients and other undocumented students. It offers free legal aid to students and their families; provides dedicated support centers and staff; and established a program to provide loans and financial aid to students ineligible for federal loan programs.

Learn more about UC resources for undocumented students.

Tell me more about the case:

Name: Department of Homeland Security, et al. v. Regents of the University of California, et al.

Hearing date: Oral arguments are set for Nov. 12, 2019.

How to watch/listen: The court does not televise its hearings, but audio transcripts will be available after the fact.

Decision date: The court does not disclose when its decisions will be announced, but it must make a ruling before the term concludes at the end of June 2020. You can sign up to receive UC news about the DACA case.

Court filings: You can review the filings in the case online at the Supreme Court's website.

How can I get involved?

Join UC’s fight to protect the nation’s DACA recipients by signing up for the UC Advocacy Network. You’ll get the latest news on our court fight and be alerted to other actions you can take to help these deserving students.

Sign up here: https://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/support-uc/ucan/join