US judge strikes down limitations to DACA program

Holds ‘unlawfully appointed’ acting homeland Security secretary can’t suspend program.

A federal judge in New York has reinstated an Obama-era program that shields about 700,000 people, including about 4,500 South Asians, who were brought to the US illegally as children, from deportation.

US District Judge Nicholas Garaufis ruled Saturday that Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, could not suspend the program because he himself was not lawfully appointed.

Launching a review of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), Wolf in a memo written last July called for rejecting new applications under the program.

Under his memo, DHS would also allow current participants to renew their status and work permits for only one year instead of the previous two-year periods.

However, Garaufis ruled Saturday that “DHS failed to follow the order of succession as it was lawfully designated.”

“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.”

Garaufis cited a Government Accountability Office report to Congress in August that found that Wolf and his acting deputy, Ken Cuccinelli, were improperly serving and ineligible to run the agency under the Vacancies Reform Act.

READ: Trump administration to reject new DACA applications (July 29, 2020)

Karen Tumlin, an attorney who represented a plaintiff in one of two lawsuits that challenged Wolf’s authority, told the Associated Press the ruling was “another win for DACA recipients and those who have been waiting years to apply for the program for the first time.”

President Donald Trump has tried to end the DACA program enacted by then President Barack Obama in 2012.

However, the Supreme Court ruled in June that the Trump administration did not follow proper procedures in shutting it down.

To qualify for DACA, applicants should have come to the US before their 16th birthday, been in the country continuously since mid-2007, and be under age 31 in mid-2012.

They should also have no felony or significant misdemeanor convictions, pose no national security threat, and either have either a high school diploma, be enrolled in school or have a record of service in the US military.

The Obama administration argued that those who qualified were people who lacked a legal immigration status through no fault of their own, in many cases knew only the United States as home and were contributing to the country.

READ: Federal Court orders USCIS to accept new DACA applications (July 18, 2020)

Obama called the program a “stopgap” measure meant to protect the immigrants from deportation and urged Congress to enact fixes to what he called a “broken immigration system.”

Wolf noted in his memo that Congress has not taken any action on the issue and said there has arguably been “more than sufficient time to consider affording permanent status or immigration relief to the class of aliens covered by the policy.”

President-elect Joe Biden, who served as Obama’s vice president, said he would protect the group of immigrants nicknamed “Dreamers” and give them and an estimated 11 million other undocumented immigrants in the US a pathway to citizenship.

READ MORE:

Kamala Harris asks Trump to honor Supreme Court’s DACA ruling (July 17, 2020)

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