High Court Urged To Consider Pandemic In Fate Of DACA

By Lauren Berg
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Law360 (March 27, 2020, 10:29 PM EDT) -- Advocates of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program urged the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday to consider the ramifications of allowing the Trump administration to shut down the Obama-era program in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, saying nearly 30,000 DACA recipients are health care workers.

In a letter to the high court's clerk of court, Scott S. Harris, the DACA recipient plaintiffs pleaded with the court to allow DACA recipients to keep their current status as the public health crisis of COVID-19 sweeps across the country.

"It throws into sharp relief DACA recipients' important contributions to the country and the significant adverse consequences of eliminating their ability to live and work without fear of imminent deportation," the advocates wrote.

The advocates said health care providers working to fight back against the novel coronavirus rely upon DACA recipients to perform essential work. According to the letter, about 27,000 DACA recipients are health care workers — including nurses, pharmacists, physician assistants, dentists and technicians — and nearly 200 are medical students, residents and physicians.

In November, the Supreme Court's conservative majority appeared to suggest that the Trump administration would be allowed to repeal the program, which has provided deportation relief and work authorization to about 800,000 young unauthorized immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children.

The administration is appealing court orders from around the country forcing it to keep the DACA program. The government argues that if President Barack Obama had the authority to create the program, then it should be able to withdraw it.

Now, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the threat to the DACA program is exacerbating immigrant communities' fears.

Eliana Fernandez, a plaintiff in the case, said in a statement Friday that she and other DACA recipients are "frantically working" to support their families while trying to keep everyone healthy during the pandemic.

"We urge the court to consider that a decision to take away DACA from us at this moment would be catastrophic, putting us and our families at grave risk," Fernandez said.

Citing an amicus brief from the Association of American Medical Colleges and 32 allied organizations, the advocates said in their letter Friday that there would be a significant loss if DACA recipients were excluded from the health care workforce. The number of doctors in the United States hasn't kept pace with the growing and aging population, according to the brief.

"These shortages will be felt most keenly in medically underserved areas, such as rural settings and poor neighborhoods — precisely the areas in which DACA recipients are likeliest to work," the brief states.

Todd Schulte, president of bipartisan political organization FWD.us, said in a statement Friday that terminating DACA now would gut America's health care workforce. He said health care workers risking their lives during the pandemic shouldn't have to worry about being ripped from their jobs and communities and be deported.

Schulte called on the Trump administration to immediately renew DACA protections for any recipient whose protections are set to expire within the next year and that it should drop its appeal before the Supreme Court while the country is responding to the health crisis.

"The current national health emergency vividly illustrates the Trump administration's failure to consider the impact of terminating DACA on DACA recipients' employers, state and local governments, and communities across the country, not to mention our health care workforce," Schulte said.

A representative for the Trump administration did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday evening.

The case is Chad Wolf et al. v. Martin Jonathan Batalla Vidal et al., case number 18-589, in the Supreme Court of the United States.

--Additional reporting by Jimmy Hoover and Suzanne Monyak. Editing by Bruce Goldman.

For a reprint of this article, please contact reprints@law360.com.

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Case Information

Case Title

Kirstjen M. Nielsen, Secretary of Homeland Security, et al., Petitioners v. Martin Jonathan Batalla Vidal, et al.

Case Number



Supreme Court

Nature of Suit

Date Filed

November 05, 2018


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