Microsoft to represent DACA recipients in Supreme Court trial to keep program alive

The company has over 60 employees that are recipients of DACA permits, which allow them to stay in the country despite not being US citizens.

Microsoft has joined Princeton University to file a case against the United States government to overrule its decision of cancelling the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which if upheld, would put program recipients at risk of being deported from the country.

The DACA program allows illegal immigrants who came to the United States as minors prior to 15 June 2007, and were under the age of 31 when the program first began, to apply for a two-year renewable deferral to let them stay in the country. Program recipients have to be clear of any felony or serious misdemeanor convictions, and they must be in any level of school, have graduated high school, or been honourably discharged from the military.

The Trump administration attempted to phase out the DACA program -- which was put in place by then-President Barack Obama in 2012 -- two years ago, but that move was blocked by lower courts in California, New York, and Washington.  

For the upcoming trial, two of the determinations will be whether federal judges can even review the decision to end the DACA program and if the Trump administration's attempted termination of the program is lawful.

The program, which has been in effect for around seven years, has granted nearly 700,000 young people with permits to stay in the United States. Microsoft currently has over five dozen employees that are DACA recipients, ranging from software engineers to security professionals to finance managers.

For Microsoft and its fellow plaintiffs, the crux of their argument for keeping the DACA program alive is that the US government has not provided a "reasoned explanation" as to why it should be cancelled.

"This case, in short, is about accountability. Judge Bates made crystal clear that the government has the power to rescind DACA, but only if it takes responsibility for its actions, offers forthright justifications, and explains them in a reasoned fashion. Because the government failed to do so, the [lower court's] decision should be affirmed," the plaintiffs said in their court brief [PDF].

See also: Apple's Tim Cook files Supreme Court brief to support DACA (CNET)

Meanwhile, the Trump administration said in a court document [PDF] that the Department of Homeland Security's decision to rescind the DACA program "is a quintessential enforcement decision of the sort traditionally 'committed to an agency's absolute discretion'", putting forth the argument that the courts do not have authority over the department's decision to scrap the program.

In a blog post on Friday, Microsoft President and CEO Brad Smith said the decision to bring the case forward was to protect businesses from losing its "flow of talent and innovation economy".

"For us, this fight is not just about our employees. It's also about the potential impact of DACA rescission on the hundreds of thousands of Dreamers, on businesses across the country, and on the innovation economy that is central to the nation's prosperity. Roughly three-quarters of the top 25 Fortune 500 companies have confirmed that they employ Dreamers," Smith added. 

The Trump administration has not confirmed how it would proceed if the Supreme Court provided a ruling in their favour, but according to tweet from Trump last month, if DACA is rescinded, "the Republicans and Democrats will have a DEAL to let them stay in our Country, in very short order. It would actually benefit DACA and be done the right way!"  

The case is set to go to trial at the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

The case filed by Microsoft is one of three cases being filed against the rescission of the DACA program, with the other two cases being Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California, No. 18-587 and Kevin McAleenan v. Martin Jonathan Batalla Vidal, No. 18-589.

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