Editor’s Note: Raul A. Reyes is an attorney and a member of the USA Today board of contributors. Follow him on Twitter @RaulAReyes. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author. View more opinions on CNN.

CNN  — 

Whew. In a ruling Thursday that put the US Supreme Court on the right side of history, justices decided the fate of the young immigrants known as Dreamers and allowed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, to remain in place. For now.

Raul A. Reyes

The opinion in Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California was quite a surprise. But polls show it is in sync with the will of the American people (including Trump supporters), as well as with legal and practical considerations. Now if Trump wants to end DACA, he can still do so — but the fallout and political consequences will be all on him.

Writing for the 5-4 majority, Chief Justice John Roberts said that the Trump administration had not followed proper procedures in ending the program, and did not properly take into account the young people who have come to rely on DACA’s protections. His opinion called the decision to end DACA “arbitrary and capricious.”

President Obama created DACA in June 2012, using his powers of executive action. It was a decision by the Department of Homeland Security not to deport the Dreamers, young people who had been brought to the United States as children (average arrival age: 6) and had lived here most of their lives as undocumented immigrants.

DACA did not give Dreamers legal status, but it did allow them to apply for two-year deferrals of deportation and the authorization to work legally.

This was life-changing for hundreds of thousands of people — Americans in all but the paperwork — who were now free to work, go to school, seek promotions and continue their academic careers without fear of being detained and sent back to countries they barely knew.

But in September 2017, the Trump administration, reflecting the President’s overall hostility to immigrants and immigration, suddenly announced that DACA was over.

Had the court allowed this to stand, it would have been devastating to immigrant communities.

Thursday’s ruling represents a break from the conservative majority’s recent decisions on immigration. Consider that they have allowed the administration to proceed with its “public charge rule” for potential legal immigrants, the border wall, the travel ban, and restrictions on asylum.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor called out this troubling pattern in February when she warned in a dissenting opinion that the high court appeared to be bending rules to benefit Trump. Chief Justice Roberts seems to have reached a limit on how far he is willing to let the high court rubber-stamp Trump administration decisions.

While the court’s majority did not permanently “save” the Dreamers — that would require a legislative fix — it gives them an important reprieve. Many court observers expected the court to rule in favor of ending the program, especially since this case never should have come before the court at all. Traditionally the court only hears cases involving important aspects of federal law or issues that have resulted in conflicting decisions in the lower courts.

Neither of these scenarios were in play here. The DACA case turned on the question of whether the Trump administration provided an adequate explanation for ending the program. That was the issue before the court, not the constitutionality of executive action in general, or of DACA in particular. And three lower courts all sided against the Trump administration on DACA, so there were no conflicting court rulings to resolve either.

No doubt, the court’s decision is rooted in practicality. The nearly 700,000 DACA grantees include 29,000 health care workers and nearly 15,000 teachers, according to the Center for American Progress.

These are workers providing vital services during the coronavirus pandemic. And studies consistently show the economic, educational, and social benefits of allowing the program to continue. It would make no sense to begin expelling them, simply to further the President’s restrictive agenda.

To be clear, DACA does not give anyone a path to citizenship or even a green card. It simply allows it grantees the opportunity to live and work in the US without fear of deportation. This fear is very real. Although immigration enforcement is currently limited due to the coronavirus outbreak, Trump administration officials have stated that Dreamers would be eligible for removal if DACA were ended. Before the pandemic, ICE was gearing up to target DACA grantees for deportation.

The bad news is that if Trump wants to end DACA, he can still do so by coming up with a rationale for such action (although that would likely take months). But he will not be able to hide behind a decision from the high court and use the Dreamers as pawns to get his border wall. His administration will fully own any moves to terminate the program properly and deport the Dreamers.

This would be politically disastrous: A poll this month by CBS News found that Americans overwhelmingly support keeping DACA in place. This includes 95% of Democrats, 73% of Republicans and 84% of independents.

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    Overall, 85% of the public favor keeping DACA. To put this in perspective, when was the last time 85% of Americans agreed on anything?

    For now, Dreamers can celebrate this victory and remind their many allies of the importance of voting in November. More than ever, Congress should take up immigration reform, even if it is only in an incremental manner.

    The Supreme Court was right to block Trump’s attempt to end DACA. It is a win for Dreamers, for the American ideal of welcoming immigrants — and for the independence of the high court.

    An earlier version of this article incorrectly characterized the length of time DACA recipients may defer deportation under the policy. The policy allows them to apply for a two-year renewable deferral of deportation.