When President Donald Trump got the opportunity to fill not one but two slots on the Supreme Court, he probably thought he would be able to do whatever he wanted during his time in office. In fact, that is what everyone else thought too, which is why the entire left was up in arms over it.
However, the appointments of Justice Neil Gorsuch and Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the bench of the highest court in the land have not been as useful for the President as he might have hoped. On the issue of abortion, for example, the Court continues to side with the progressive side of the debate by blocking various additional bans and restrictions.
The supposed conservative majority, then, only really operates in theory. That is a very big problem for the entire GOP in the very near future, as the Supreme Court is due to review some of the most controversial aspects of the President’s immigration policy very soon, with the possibility it could block some of his harsh anti-migrant measures.
One of the pillars of President Trump’s nationalist approach to immigration policy since taking office has been his attempts to row back on the reforms implemented by President Barack Obama, especially the Obama-era protections granted to illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children, known as Dreamers.
The fate of almost 700,000 Dreamers hangs in the balance as the Supreme Court weighs up whether to side with Obama or Trump on their residency rights. Crucially, the final decision is due in the next term, placing it right in the middle of the 2020 presidential election campaign, threatening to shake things up and make the situation much more difficult for Trump if the verdict does not go his way.
It has taken several months for the Supreme Court to even agree on whether or not to look at this case at all. In the meantime, the judges unilaterally allowed continued renewals for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, sometimes known as DACA. In other words, during all this deliberation, even with Trump in the White House, the Obama-era policy has continued uninterrupted.
The DACA program has served as a vital lifeline for thousands upon thousands of migrants in the United States. It grants participants protection from deportation and gives them permission to seek work in the US. Naturally, it has become central to Trump’s war of words – and, indeed, policy – over illegal immigration.
The dilemma faced by many recipients of the program is that they cannot seek legal status of their own accord because they were brought into the country illegally or overstayed their visas, which is why the DACA program is so essential, since these migrants would often have no other way of becoming lawful permanent residents of the United States.
"It just shows everyone how broken and unfair our Court System is when the opposing side in a case (such as DACA) always runs to the 9th Circuit and almost always wins before being reversed by higher courts."
That is just one of many countless public statements made by the President, usually on Twitter, lamenting the fact that he is unable to implement his preferred immigration policy solely through his executive authority. Though it might play well with his voter base, this kind of rhetoric is unlikely to help sway the judges towards his point of view.
This is a trade-off that the President will face repeatedly between now and November next year. He has to tread a fine line between firing up his potential voters and not jeopardising his own policy initiatives, which is a very difficult balance to maintain.