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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[.]"

Republican Sen. Sasse slams Nebraska GOP for "weird worship" of Trump after state party rebuke

Sen. Ben Sasse, (R-Neb.) Photo: Andrew Harnik - Pool/Getty Images

The Nebraska Republican Party on Saturday formally "rebuked" Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) for his vote to impeach former President Trump earlier this year, though it stopped short of a formal censure, CNN reports.

Why it matters: Sasse is the latest among a slate of Republicans who have faced some sort of punishment from their state party apparatus after voting to impeach the former president. The senator responded statement Saturday, per the Omaha World-Herald, saying "most Nebraskans don't think politics should be about the weird worship of one dude."

Cuomo barraged by fellow Dems after second harassment accusation

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo faced a barrage of criticism from fellow Democrats after The New York Times reported that the second former aide in four days had accused him of sexual harassment.

Why it matters: Cuomo had faced a revolt from legislators for his handling of nursing-home deaths from COVID. Now, the scandal is acutely personal, with obviously grave political risk.