The U.S. Supreme Court has blocked an effort by the Trump administration to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, in a ruling that is expected to provide at least temporary relief for thousands of construction workers and their employers, industry observers say.
In a June 17 opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts, the court ruled 5-4 against the administration’s attempt to terminate the DACA program. It was established under a 2012 executive order by then-president Obama to provide immigration status for an estimated 700,000 so-called "dreamers"—individuals brought to the U.S. as children. [View court's opinion here.]
The ruling has a significant impact on construction, which the Associated General Contractors of America estimates employs 80,000 DACA recipients. Brian Turmail, AGC spokesperson, said the decision provides greater stability for dreamers working in the industry and their employers.
Shortages expected to resurface
Ray Perryman, an economist and CEO of The Perryman Group, Waco, Texas, says, "The Supreme Court ruling is good news on many levels."
Perryman, who has studied the industry, says, "For the construction industry, worker shortages have been a notable problem. As the economy recovers from the COVID-19 slowing, such shortages will resurface."
He adds, "It is crucial, however, that Congress pass meaningful immigration reform."
Perryman also says, "The Supreme Court did not rule that DACA was a legally sound policy, but rather that the case to end it now had not been adequately made. Immigration reform could not only ensure that DACA recipients are protected, but also improve outcomes in other ways.
He says that the high court's ruling "will benefit construction and many other segments, but the long-term problem is not yet solved."
Under DACA, many recipients were able to legally seek employment and join construction unions. Terry O’Sullivan, general president of the Laborers' International Union of North America (LIUNA), called the Trump administration’s move to terminate DACA “cruel” and praised the ruling.
O'Sullivan said, “Dreamers have built lives here in the United States, starting careers and paying taxes and Social Security.”
He added. “Many tens of thousands of Dreamers are union members–including LIUNA members–and work in the construction industry literally building America.”
In a tweet, President Trump called the DACA decision, along with the June 15 ruling that the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects gay, lesbian and transgender employees from discrimination, “horrible & politically charged decisions” that are “shotgun blasts into the face of people that are proud to call themselves Republicans or Conservatives.”
Issue sent back to DHS
Ken Cuccinelli, acting deputy secretary of the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security, called the Supreme Court’s decision “an affront to the rule of law and gives presidents power to extend discretionary policies into future Administrations.”
DHS Acting Secretary Chad Wolf said the DACA program was “created out of thin air and implemented illegally,” adding that federal laws should be “faithfully executed as written by their representatives in Congress—not based on the arbitrary decisions of a past administration.”
Although the Supreme Court ruled against the administration, the decision may not be the end of the debate.
Writing on behalf of the majority, Roberts said the court did not “decide whether DACA or its rescission are sound policies,” but rather addressed “whether the agency complied with the procedural requirement that it provide a reasoned explanation for its action.”
Roberts added that the court remanded the issue to DHS “so that it may reconsider the problem anew."
U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Thomas J. Donohue called the decision right “for Dreamers, our economy, and our country,” but agreed that legislative action should be taken to secure DACA.
“Make no mistake, the work is not done,” Donohue added. “It is long past time for Congress to provide permanent relief for Dreamers.”