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Federal Judge Orders Trump Administration to Open DACA to New Applicants

A Clinton-appointed judge has ordered the Trump administration to fully restore the Obama-era DACA program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, to new applicants. The Trump administration had sought to end the program since Sep. 2017. 

In mid-November, Judge Garaufis ruled that Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, like Kevin McAllenan before him, unlawfully filled the vacancy left by the departure of Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in Apr. 2019. Since Wolf unlawfully held the position, the judge ruled that Wolf lacked the statutory authority to suspend the DACA program. 

“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,” wrote Garaufis. 

In Sep. 2017, President Trump moved to end the DACA program, but the Supreme Court ruled in Jun. 2020 that President Trump did not follow the proper procedure in terminating the program. In the 5-4 ruling, Chief Justice John Roberts joined the liberal wing of the court to keep the program in place but left the door open for DACA to be rescinded in the future. The next month, Wolf ended the program through memorandum.

“Accordingly, because Mr. Wolf was without lawful authority to serve as Acting Secretary of DHS, the Wolf Memorandum is VACATED,” wrote Garaufis. “In light of the vacatur, all parties agree that the DACA program is currently governed by its terms as they existed prior to the attempted rescission of September 2017.”  

The Trump administration can appeal the decision.

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