“Si se puede!” N.Y. Attorney General celebrates ruling that DHS Sec Wolf had no authority to limit DACA

Judge Nicholas Garaufis of the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, an Obama appointee, ruled on Saturday that acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf is “not acting legally” in that capacity. In question was a memo issued by Wolf last July that suspended new Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals (DACA) applications and restricted renewals to one year instead of two years.

Wolf issued the memo in July after the Supreme Court’s ruling in June that said the Trump administration wrongly tried to end DACA protections. The federal judge’s ruling says that Chad Wolf isn’t leading DHS legally, therefore his suspension of the DACA program is invalid. Immigration activists claimed that Wolf is trying to gut the DACA program. The ruling applies to more than a million people.

In June the Supreme Court ruled that the decision by the Trump administration in 2017 to end DACA was legally flawed. It didn’t rule that Trump couldn’t end the program but blamed administration officials for not taking into account relevant factors while trying to end DACA. Instead of fully restoring the program, as the Supreme Court expected their ruling to do, Wolf issued the memo. He barred new applications, left in place a policy against the travel permits known as advanced parole, cut the length of grants, and changed the length of work visas from two years to one year. In other words, if the SCOTUS ruling denied the Trump administration the ability to shut down the DACA program, Wolf was finding a way to work around it by putting new restrictions into place. Currently, there is a federal judge in Maryland who is considering a motion to declare the administration in contempt of court for failing to reinstate the full DACA program.

New York Attorney General Letitia James is pleased with the ruling. Her office led one of the two lawsuits affected by the ruling from Judge Garaufis. The bad Orange Man’s administration uses “innocent young people” as scapegoats, you know.

“The Supreme Court already ruled that President Trump’s attempts to unfairly punish Dreamers was unlawful, but now another federal court has ruled that this administration’s attempts to circumvent the courts in an effort to target and punish innocent young people is just as unlawful,” James said in a statement. “Time and time again, this outgoing administration attempted to use young immigrants as political scapegoats. … Our coalition will not hesitate to use every tool at our disposal to continue to protect these young people in every way possible. Si se puede!”

Judge Nicholas Garaufis justifies his ruling by claiming that Acting Secretary Wolf was illegally put into his position through a violation of the order of succession in place. Therefore, he had no legal right to make changes to the DACA process. President Trump formally nominated Wolf but he has not been confirmed by a vote in the Senate. Garaufis ruled that acting secretaries don’t have the authority to make such changes. Other federal judges have also raised questions about the legality of Wolf’s appointment. The GAO determined his appointment to be invalid in August.

“DHS failed to follow the order of succession as it was lawfully designated,” wrote Garaufis, an appointee of President Barack Obama. “Therefore, the actions taken by purported Acting Secretaries, who were not properly in their roles according to the lawful order of succession, were taken without legal authority.”

The most immediate beneficiaries of the court ruling are likely to be immigrants who are eligible for DACA but did not apply before the Trump administration cut off applications in September 2017. The decision could also lead DHS to restore a DACA benefit the administration largely halted at the same time: the ability for Dreamers to leave the country and return, without losing their quasi-legal status and work permits.

The judge also certified a class of immigrants eligible for DACA, potentially expanding the DACA program.

Garaufis also certified a class of immigrants who are or could be eligible for DACA under the 2012 guidelines, which include those who came to the U.S before the age of 16, have lived in the country since 2007 and have earned an American high school diploma, a GED or served honorably in the military.

The class certification applies to approximately 1.1 million immigrant teenagers and young adults, who may now be allowed to request DACA protections, pending further litigation. Among those who could qualify are 66,000 teens who turned 15 after September 2017, when the Trump administration closed the program to new applicants.

This ruling probably doesn’t really matter much now. With the transition between the Trump and Biden administrations moving forward, it will be Biden’s policies on illegal immigration that will be put into place after his inauguration in January. Biden has clearly stated that he intends to use blanket amnesty to legalize those in the United States illegally. He has plans to end deportations and legalize Dreamers. All of that is at the top of his agenda. The open-borders crowd will be back in control. And judges will be making laws instead of interpreting them.

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