The head of ICE says he will deport DREAMers if the Supreme Court ends DACA

Matthew Albence, the acting director of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said on Thursday that ICE will deport immigrants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program if the Supreme Court strikes that program down later this year. That statement seems to contradict Chief Justice John Roberts’s understanding that such deportations will not happen.

Last November, the Supreme Court heard three cases asking whether the Trump administration followed the proper procedures when it tried to wind down DACA, which allows hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants to live and work in the United States.

The conservative Court is likely to side with the Trump administration, although there is a chance that the justices may require that the administration draft a new memo explaining why it wants to end DACA before the program can be wound down. The cases are Trump v. NAACP, McAleenan v. Vidal, and Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California.

During last November’s argument, Chief Justice John Roberts minimized the consequences facing DACA beneficiaries if the program is terminated. Both the Obama and the Trump administration, Roberts claimed, “have said they’re not going to deport the people.”

In a 2017 tweet, President Trump wrote, “Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military? Really!” That tweet was widely read as a reference to the DACA population.

Last November, by contrast, Trump took a different tone, tweeting that many DACA beneficiaries “are far from ‘angels.’

DACA conveys a number of advantages to immigrants who participate in the program, including assurances that they will not be deported, authorization to work in the United States, and access to certain federal benefits. During the oral argument, Roberts suggested that all that’s really at stake in the DACA cases is whether the program’s beneficiaries will lose “work authorization and the other things.”

The chief justice appears to believe that the Trump administration won’t deport former DACA beneficiaries if the Supreme Court rules against these immigrants. But, according to Albence, Roberts is wrong.

DACA beneficiaries are immigrants who came to the United States before their 16th birthday and have lived in this country since 2007. Anyone with a felony or significant misdemeanor conviction is ineligible for DACA status. As Trump’s 2017 tweet notes, many served the United States in uniform.

One of the central issues in the DACA oral argument was whether the Trump administration did enough to “take responsibility” for its decision to end the DACA program. As Justice Sonia Sotomayor suggested, if the administration is going to “destroy lives,” the law requires it to offer a fuller explanation of why it’s doing so.

A similar logic could be applied to Roberts. If Roberts is going to rule against DACA beneficiaries, he should at least be cognizant of the full consequences of his decision.