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Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf. Photo: Greg Nash/AFP via Getty Images

Chad Wolf has not been serving lawfully as the acting secretary of Homeland Security, and therefore his suspension of the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is invalid, a federal judge ruled on Saturday.

Driving the news: Wolf issued a memo in late July that said DHS would no longer accept new DACA applications and would limit renewals, pending a review of the program. The move came despite the June Supreme Court ruling that said the Trump administration violated federal law when it ended the program, which offers protections from deportation for roughly 649,000 immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

What he's saying: "Wolf was not lawfully serving as Acting Secretary of Homeland Security under the HSA [Homeland Security Act] when he issued the Wolf Memorandum," in July, Judge Nicholas Garaufis wrote in his ruling.

  • “Based on the plain text of the operative order of succession, neither Mr. [Kevin] McAleenan nor, in turn, Mr. Wolf, possessed authority to serve as Acting Secretary. Therefore, the Wolf Memorandum was not an exercise of legal authority."
  • Garaufis cited the Government Accountability Office, which said in August that Wolf was named to the post “by reference to an invalid order of succession."
  • "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 said.
  • DHS did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment. The Trump administration can appeal Saturday's ruling.

Immigration rights groups celebrated the decision as a victory for DACA recipients.

  • "Just over one year ago today, thousands of immigrant youth, supporters, and activists marched to #SCOTUS to loudly, proudly say that our #HomeIsHere. Today’s decision is yet another victory for immigrant youth!" tweeted the National Immigration Law Center.
  • “This victory is just the beginning. Not only must the Biden administration immediately protect DACA & TPS holders & reverse all of Trump’s nativist polices, but also provide swift relief & a path to citizenship for millions of undoc. families across the country," Javier Valdés, the co-executive director of Make the Road New York, said in a statement tweeted by his organization.

The bottom line: "The court wishes the Government well in trying to find its way out of this self-made thicket," Garaufis said in a footnote of his ruling.

Go deeper: GAO finds Chad Wolf ineligible for top DHS role

Go deeper

DHS warns of "heightened threat" because of domestic extremism

Supporters of former President Trump protest inside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Photo: Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images

The Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday issued an advisory warning of a "heightened threat environment" in the U.S. because of "ideologically-motivated violent extremists."

Why it matters: DHS believes the threat of violence will persist for "weeks" following President Biden's inauguration. The extremists include those who opposed the presidential transition, people spurred by "grievances fueled by false narratives" and "anger over COVID-19 restrictions ... and police use of force[.]"

Updated 34 mins ago - Sports

Japan's Naomi Osaka lights Olympic cauldron, kicking off Tokyo Games

Naomi Osaka lights the Olympic cauldron. Photo: Clive Rose/Getty Images

After a year-long delay, the Olympics finally got underway Friday as tennis star Naomi Osaka, who is competing for Japan, lit the cauldron, formally kicking off the Tokyo Games.

The big picture: Friday's opening ceremony looked, like many things over the last year, different than normal — multicolored seats replaced cheering fans, masks were a central part of the athletes' uniforms and a subdued, somber tone marked the occasion.

1 hour ago - World

China sanctions Wilbur Ross, 5 other Americans over Hong Kong warnings

Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Chinese government imposed sanctions on Monday against six Americans, including former Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, in response to an advisory from the Biden administration warning businesses of the increased risks of operating in Hong Kong.

Why it matters: It's the latest example of China responding furiously to U.S. attempts to shed light on human rights abuses in places like Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet, which Chinese officials routinely condemn as "interference" in domestic affairs.