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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

Nov 18, 2020 - World

Scoop: Senators urge Trump to label goods from West Bank settlements "Made in Israel"

Sen. Tom Cotton. Photo: Andrew Harnik-Pool/Getty Images

A group of Republican senators led by Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) sent a letter to President Trump this week urging him to issue an executive order allowing goods produced in the Jewish settlements in the West Bank to be labeled “Made in Israel." Axios obtained a copy of the letter.

Why it matters: While the rest of the world views the settlements as illegal under international law and not part of Israel, the Trump administration has taken several steps intended to legitimize them and blur the differentiation between Israel and the West Bank.

Biden plans to ask public to wear masks for first 100 days in office

Joe Biden. Photo: Mark Makela/Gettu Images

President-elect Joe Biden told CNN on Thursday that he plans to ask the American public to wear face masks for the first 100 days of his presidency.

The big picture: Biden also stated he has asked NIAID director Anthony Fauci to stay on in his current role, serve as a chief medical adviser and be part of his COVID-19 response team when he takes office early next year.

What COVID-19 vaccine trials still need to do

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

COVID-19 vaccines are being developed at record speed, but some experts fear the accelerated regulatory process could interfere with ongoing research about the vaccines.

Why it matters: Even after the first COVID-19 vaccines are deployed, scientific questions will remain about how they are working and how to improve them.