Judge Rejects Trump Administration’s Latest Attempt to Limit DACA

A U.S. district judge in New York has ruled that a U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) July 2020 memorandum that curtails immigration benefits under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is unenforceable. The federal judge found that Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, who issued the memo, was not properly appointed to his position, and therefore lacked the authority to restrict DACA.

Background on DACA Under the Trump Administration

Beneficiaries of DACA, popularly referred to as “Dreamers,” are undocumented immigrants, who were brought to the United States as children. The Obama Administration implemented the DACA program in 2012 as a means of providing work authorization to qualifying individuals and to shield them from being removed (i.e., deported) from the United States. The Trump Administration has made several attempts to weaken, if not outright terminate, the program. However, federal courts have repeatedly blocked these efforts.

On June 18, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Trump Administration violated the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) in attempting to end DACA. The Administration responded on July 28, 2020, when Mr. Wolf released the aforementioned memo, which directed the DHS to reject all pending and future requests for DACA, to reject all pending and future applications for advance parole, barring exceptional circumstances, and to shorten the DACA renewal period to one year.

Lawsuit Challenges Legitimacy of Wolf and Enforceability of Memo

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of all foreign nationals who are or will be eligible for DACA benefits, and argued that Mr. Wolf was not lawfully appointed to his position as Acting Homeland Security Secretary, and therefore he lacked the authority to issue the July 2020 memo. The court agreed, finding that Mr. Wolf was named to his position through an invalid order of succession.


Time is quickly running out for the Trump Administration to undo the DACA program, as President-Elect Biden is scheduled to be inaugurated on January 20, 2021. Still, the possibility remains that President Trump may make a last-ditch attempt to torpedo the program prior to leaving office.


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