A recent U.S. District Court ruling from the Eastern District of New York has invalidated significant changes made to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program by Chad Wolf, acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in late July.
The changes mandated by Wolf included rejecting all new DACA applications and declining new and pending requests for advanced parole from DACA recipients absent exceptional circumstances. The changes also required existing DACA recipients to request renewal of their DACA status every year, instead of every two years.
The ruling invalidating these changes hinged on Wolf’s status as an acting DHS secretary who has never been confirmed by the Senate to serve in his position. Because the ruling found that “DHS failed to follow the order of succession as it was lawfully designated…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.”
Notably, while this ruling still can be appealed by the federal government, the timing makes it unlikely that the Trump administration will be able to finalize this legal challenge prior to the transition to the administration of President-elect Joe Biden in January 2021. Biden helped to craft the DACA program while serving as vice president of the Obama administration, and is expected to undo many program changes made by the Trump administration and work toward greater legal protections for DACA recipients.