A federal judge has ruled that since acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf was unlawfully appointed, the rules he published in July governing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) were not valid.
The decision is the second legal blow to Donald Trump’s efforts to limit or do away with DACA. The Supreme Court ruled in June that Trump wrongly tried to withdraw protections for children whose parents came to the United States illegally.
With only weeks left in Trump’s presidency, it doesn’t appear that the Obama-era program will end. Joe Biden will almost certainly reestablish it and even expand it.
Judge Nicholas Garaufis said court conferences would be held to work out details of his ruling.
He concluded, “Wolf was not lawfully serving as Acting Secretary of Homeland Security under the HSA [Homeland Security Act] when he issued the Wolf Memorandum” that suspended DACA.
Karen Tumlin, a lawyer in the case and director of the Los Angeles-based Justice Action Center, said the ruling means, “the effort in the Wolf memo to gut the DACA program is overturned.”
Donald Trump has named 5 DHS secretaries during his term but only 2 were confirmed by the Senate. Mr. Wolf apparently didn’t have the “statutory authority” to succeed to the post.
“Based on the plain text of the operative order of succession,” Garaufis wrote in the Saturday ruling, “neither Mr. McAleenan nor, in turn, Mr. Wolf, possessed statutory authority to serve as Acting Secretary. Therefore the Wolf Memorandum was not an exercise of legal authority.”
Biden is set to turn Trump’s immigration policy 180 percent around. That means that several other of Wolf’s rulings are likely to be invalidated.
But the import of the judge’s decision is unclear at the moment as President-elect Joe Biden prepares to take office and usher in a profoundly different attitude towards immigration. Biden is widely expected to limit deportations and to press for legislation to legalize so-called Dreamers, but any moves he takes by executive action could face the same kinds of court challenges that targeted Obama’s policies and later ones that went after Trump’s.
That’s the problem with ruling by decree. It’s easy to put a legal roadblock in the way and either slow it down or reverse it. Since Biden won’t get any help from Republicans in the Senate, he won’t get much done legislatively either.
DACA is a disaster waiting to happen. Under Obama, “kids” as old as 21 entered the country illegally with their parents and were given a pass. Biden wouldn’t dare put any limits on the program, lest he get sued too. So millions of adults who knew that they were breaking the law by entering the United States illegally with their parents will be free from the threat of deportation. And those DACA recipients can apply for their parents to stay too.
It raises the question of why we even have borders at all.