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PTrump listens as then-FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor speaks on protecting seniors from COVID-19. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

The Trump administration is trying to cement immigration changes that face legal challenges by reissuing them through a new acting Homeland Security secretary imbued with authority courts have said his predecessors lacked.

Why it matters: Visa fee hikes, suspending the DACA program and other moves have been blocked because of a dispute over DHS's internal succession rules. While Trump is now trying a backdoor maneuver to protect some immigration actions, Joe Biden will have other ways to undo them.

The backstory: Multiple federal judges have found that former acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf was likely unlawfully appointed, causing agency policies pushed through during his watch to be invalidated.

  • The same applied to his predecessor, Kevin McAleenan. The Government Accountability Office and courts found he improperly became acting secretary following Kirstjen Nielsen's resignation in April 2019.
  • The rules that guide how DHS vacancies are supposed to be filled suggest the new acting secretary, Pete Gaynor, is now a legitimate appointee.
  • He served most recently as administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The end-around: Gaynor issued a memo Wednesday empowering Wolf, who remains DHS undersecretary for strategy, policy, and plans, to sign and ratify agency regulations.

  • Wolf then issued a memo ratifying rules published while he was acting secretary, as well as several immigration rules issued under McAleenan.

In a letter announcing his resignation, Wolf wrote "this action is warranted by recent events, including the ongoing and meritless court rulings regarding the validity of my authority as acting secretary."

  • That passage set off alarm bells with watchdog groups.
  • Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy counsel at the American Immigration Council, asked in a tweet whether "Gaynor is going to come in and ratify all of Wolf's prior actions."
  • Courts have blocked fee hikes as well as wide-ranging, harsh restrictions on asylum, citing Wolf's likely invalid succession.

Flashback: In November, a federal judge said the outgoing administration's latest suspension of the so-called Dreamers program was invalid for the same reason.

Go deeper

Texas judge temporarily halts Biden's 100-day deportation freeze

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

A federal judge in Texas has temporarily blocked the Biden administration's 100-day freeze on deporting unauthorized immigrants.

Why it matters: Biden has set an ambitious immigration agenda, but he could face pushback from the courts.

Updated 39 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Facebook paying up to $14M to settle employment discrimination claims

Photo: T.J. Kirkpatrick/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Facebook has agreed to pay up to $14.25 million to settle allegations that it discriminated against American workers by reserving positions for temporary visa holders, the Justice Department announced on Tuesday.

Why it matters: The settlement represents the largest civil penalty and monetary award that the Civil Rights Division has recovered in the 35-year history of the Immigration and Nationality Act's anti-discrimination provision.

Updated 2 hours ago - World

Mapping repression in China's Xinjiang region

Data: © Mapbox, © OpenStreetMap; Map: Will Chase/Axios

A sweeping new report released today by an Australian research organization reveals new details about how the Chinese Communist Party — and specifically who within the party — is carrying out its campaign of repression in Xinjiang.

Why it matters: Uncovering the actual offices and individuals implementing the Chinese government's genocide and forced labor policies in Xinjiang can bring accountability and help international companies delink supply chains in compliance with U.S. and EU forced labor laws.