The Trump government has come to an end but the decisions taken by it in the name of immigration reform are still being discussed in courts around the country. One such decision was a review of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that concerns almost 650,000 recipients known as ‘dreamers.’
Last week brought some good news for DACA dreamers because a federal judge in New York ruled that the rules put forward by Acting Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Chad Wolf are invalid because he was not serving his term legally.
According to Judge Nicholas Garaufis of the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of New York, “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.”(VOA)
Earlier in June, we saw a decision of the Supreme Court on DACA in which it blocked Trump’s attempt to dismantle the DACA act in a 5-to-4 decision. However, this did not stop Wolf. In July, he issued a memo containing new USCIS DACA steps. These steps include: shortening the renewal period from 2 years to 1 year, rejecting all initial applications, and rejecting all Advance Parole applications from recipients barring exceptional circumstances. (ILRC)
The memorandum was challenged in two cases: Batalla v. Wolf,16-cv-4756, and State of New York v. Trump, 17,-cv-5528. In both cases, the Plaintiffs argued that the Acting Secretary of DHS was not serving lawfully and that the memo violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).
The secretary of Homeland Security has been a frequently-changed position in the Trump administration, with Wolf being the 5th person appointed to do the job. In August, upon a reconsideration request from the DHS, the U.S. Government Accountability Office concluded that the appointments of Chad Wolf, acting DHS Secretary, and Ken Cuccinelli, senior official acting as deputy secretary, “were issued under an invalid order of succession. GAO will modify or reverse a prior decision only if it contains a material error of fact or law.”
The DHS is supposed to be and a political entity. The incorrect appointment of officials then the subsequent actions taken by those appointed further damages The office is credibility.
The DACA act was introduced in 2012 by the Obama administration. As the name suggests, the program has certain age-related conditions applicants need to fulfill. These conditions include, among others, the individual entered the U.S. before the age of 16, has a continuous residence in the U.S. since mid-2007, has a clean record in terms of felonies and significant misdemeanors, was under 31 in the mid-2012. The program was meant to protect illegal immigrants who did not have any say in their legal status in the country.
DACA recipients are present in more than 1.5 million homes, and over a quarter-million U.S.-born children are born to DACA recipients. Moreover, these recipients pay $5.7 billion in federal taxes and $3.1 billion in state and local taxes. (AmericanProgress) The idea with DACA was two have something in place for the immigrants until Congress came up with a permanent solution. The Trump administration seems to have taken the view that since nothing permanent has come about, the program should be discontinued.
Thankfully for the DACA dreamers, the newly-elected president Joe Biden has taken a different view and is expected to continue the program. “Biden plans to send an immigration bill to Congress on his first day in office in January that includes a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million immigrants living in the country illegally.” (Reuters)
Richard Herman is a nationally renowned immigration lawyer, author, and activist. He has dedicated his life to advocating for immigrants and helping change the conversation on immigration. He is the founder of the Herman Legal Group, an immigration law firm launched in 1995 and recognized in U.S. World News & Report’s “Best Law Firms in America.” He is the co-author of the acclaimed book, Immigrant, Inc. —Why Immigrant Entrepreneurs Are Driving the New Economy (John Wiley & Sons, 2009). Richard’s poignant commentary has been sought out by many national media outlets, including The New York Times, USA Today, BusinessWeek, Forbes, FOX News (The O’Reilly Factor), National Public Radio, Inc., National Lawyers Weekly, PC World, Computerworld, CIO, TechCrunch, Washington Times, San Francisco Chronicle and InformationWeek.