Immigrants and immigration advocates have scored a legal victory.
On Saturday, a federal judge ruled Chad Wolf was "not lawfully serving as Acting Secretary of Homeland Security" when he issued a memorandum that effectively suspended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program; therefore, making the memo invalid. As reported by NBC News, Judge Nicholas Garaufis determined Wolf's appointment was a result of "an illegitimate shuffling of leadership chairs at" DHS, which handles immigration enforcement actions.
Judge Garaufis ruled that when former DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen resigned from her post in April 2019, Wolf's predecessor Kevin McAleenan was not authorized to serve as Acting Secretary. Therefore, when McAleenan announced his resignation in November 2019, Wolf's appointment was due to "an invalid order of succession."
The DACA program offers protection for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. The Trump administration attempted to end the program, but the Supreme Court blocked its effort back in July, stating it was a violation of federal law. Pending reconsideration of the DACA policy, Wolf issued the memo that included the following orders for DHS staffers:
- Reject all pending and future initial requests for DACA
- Reject all pending and future applications for advance parole absent exceptional circumstances
- Shorten the period of renewed deferred action granted pursuant to the DACA policy after the issuance of the memorandum to one year.
"The court has reaffirmed what we always knew: Chad Wolf was not authorized to perform the functions of an acting secretary when he issued the July 28 DACA Memo," said Trudy S. Rebert, staff attorney at the National Immigration Law Center. "This is a victory for our courageous plaintiffs, DACA-eligible youth across the country, and all of our communities. We remain steadfast in our commitment to ensure that the Trump administration is accountable to the law and immigrant youth remain safe and have the freedom to thrive here at home."