Donald Trump has reacted angrily after the US Supreme Court dealt a major blow to his hardline immigration policies by rejecting his effort to end protection from deportation for hundreds of thousands of people.
Justices voted 5-4 to uphold lower court rulings that found the president’s 2017 move to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme was unlawful.
The scheme was created in 2012 by his Democratic predecessor Barack Obama. Dubbed “Dreamers”, those who are part of the programme entered the United States illegally as children.
The decision is likely to elevate the issue in campaigning ahead of the presidential election in November.
Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court’s four liberals in finding that the administration’s actions were “arbitrary and capricious” under a federal law called the Administrative Procedure Act.
It means that the roughly 649,000 immigrants, mostly young Hispanic adults born in Mexico and other Latin American countries, currently enrolled in DACA will remain protected from deportation.
They will also be eligible to obtain renewable two-year work permits.
Mr Trump vented his apparent fury at the decision in a series of tweets, saying: “These horrible & politically charged decisions coming out of the Supreme Court are shotgun blasts into the face of people that are proud to call themselves Republicans or Conservatives.”
He went on to repeat his argument that the Supreme Court should be expanded to include more justices and claim that a failure to do so would mean “we will lose our 2nd. Amendment & everything else”.
He then appeared to suggest the ruling by the country’s highest court was based on the justices’ personal feelings about him, saying: “Do you get the impression that the Supreme Court doesn’t like me?”
But the ruling was welcomed by Mr Obama, who said on Twitter: “Eight years ago this week, we protected young people who were raised as part of our American family from deportation.
“Today, I’m happy for them, their families, and all of us. We may look different and come from everywhere, but what makes us American are our shared ideals.
“And now to stand up for those ideals, we have to move forward and elect Joe Biden and a Democratic Congress that does its job, protects DREAMers, and finally creates a system that’s truly worthy of this nation of immigrants once and for all.”
In returning the ruling, Chief Justice Roberts wrote: “We do not decide whether DACA or its rescission are sound policies.
“We address only whether the agency complied with the procedural requirement that it provide a reasoned explanation for its action.
“Here the agency failed to consider the conspicuous issues of whether to retain forbearance and what if anything to do about the hardship to DACA recipients.”
The court’s four conservative justices dissented. Justice Clarence Thomas, in a dissent joined by Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch, argued that DACA was illegal from the moment it was created.
In a separate dissent, Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote that he was satisfied the administration acted appropriately in trying to end the programme.
DACA recipients including Cesar Espinosa said they were elated by the ruling.
“We’ll keep living our lives in the meantime,” said Mr Espinosa, who leads the Houston immigration advocacy group FIEL.
“We’re going to continue to work, continue to advocate.”
He said he got little sleep overnight in anticipation of the possible decision.
He said that within moments of the ruling his group had been “flooded with calls with Dreamers, happy, with that hope that they’re going to at least be in this country for a while longer”.
While the ruling does not prevent the president from trying again to end the scheme, his administration is unlikely to be able to do so before the 3 November election in which he is seeking a second four-year term in office.
He has repeatedly taken a hardline approach to immigration throughout his first term. In April, he vowed to “temporarily suspend immigration” into the US due to the coronavirus pandemic.