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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[.]"

Reports: CIA finds "Havana Syndrome" unlikely caused by foreign campaign

CIA Director William Burns testifies during a Senate hearing on Capitol Hill last April. Photo: Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty Images

A preliminary CIA report rules out a foreign global campaign as the cause of American and Canadian diplomats affected by a mysterious illness known as "Havana syndrome," per multiple reports.

Why it matters: Some lawmakers had suggested the sometimes debilitating illness was due to directed energy attacks. But CIA officials told the New York Times that most of the 1,000 cases reported to the government could be "explained by environmental causes, undiagnosed medical conditions or stress." This finding has angered some victims, per the NYT.

Jan. 6 panel subpoenas 2 far-right "America First" activists

The House panel investigating the Capitol riot, from left; Reps. Bennie Thompson, Liz Cheney, Adam Kinzinger and Jamie Raskin on Capitol Hill in December. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The House select committee investigating the Capitol riot issued subpoenas Wednesday for far-right leaders Nick Fuentes and Patrick Casey, who allegedly encouraged followers to go to D.C. and challenge the 2020 election results.

Why it matters: The action underscores the panel's increasing focus on rallies held ahead of the Capitol attack and how extremists were drawn to former President Trump's baseless claims of widespread voter fraud, per the New York Times.