WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court took no action on Tuesday on the Trump administration’s plans to shut down a program that shields some 700,000 young undocumented immigrants from deportation.
The court’s inaction almost certainly means it will not hear the administration’s challenge in its current term, which ends in June. The justices’ next private conference to consider petitions seeking review is scheduled for Feb. 15. Even were they to agree to hear the case then, it would not be argued until after the next term starts in October.
The move left the program in place and denied negotiating leverage to Mr. Trump, who has said he wanted to use a Supreme Court victory in the case in negotiations with Democrats over immigration issues.
Mr. Trump tried to end the program in 2017, calling it an unconstitutional use of executive power by his predecessor and reviving the threat of deportation for immigrants who had been brought to the United States illegally as young children.
But federal judges have ordered the administration to maintain major pieces of the program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, while legal challenges move forward, notably by requiring the administration to allow people enrolled in it to renew their protected status.
In November, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, ruled against the administration. It acknowledged that presidents have broad powers to alter the policies of earlier administrations but said that the legal rationale offered by the Trump administration did not withstand scrutiny. The court also questioned “the cruelty and wastefulness of deporting productive young people to countries with which they have no ties.”
Mr. Trump has criticized that ruling and has said he would be vindicated in the Supreme Court. He also predicted that a Supreme Court victory would strengthen his hand in negotiations with Democratic lawmakers over immigration issues.
“I think it’s going to be overturned in the United States Supreme Court, and I think it’s going to be overwhelmingly overturned,” Mr. Trump said at a cabinet meeting this month, adding, “So if we win that case — and I say this for all to hear — we’ll be easily able to make a deal on DACA and the wall as a combination.”
Mr. Trump has taken inconsistent positions on the program. Even as he tried to end it, he called upon Congress to give legal status and an eventual path to citizenship to the young immigrants, who are sometimes called “dreamers.” More recently, he offered to extend the program in exchange for concessions on a border wall.
The administration has argued that the program, instituted by the Obama administration, was an unconstitutional exercise of executive authority, relying on a ruling from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans, concerning a related program. The Supreme Court deadlocked, 4 to 4, in an appeal of that ruling.
But the Ninth Circuit said the two programs differed in important ways, undermining the administration’s legal analysis. The appeals court affirmed a nationwide injunction ordering the administration to retain major elements of the program while the case moved forward. Such nationwide injunctions, which have been used by courts to block executive actions in both the Obama and the Trump administrations, have been the subject of much commentary and criticism.