Judge blocks some asylum restrictions, rules Chad Wolf serving as DHS secretary likely unlawful

Judge blocks some asylum restrictions, rules Chad Wolf serving as DHS secretary likely unlawful
© Washington Post/Pool

A Maryland judge blocked the Trump administration from enforcing new asylum restrictions challenged by 20 state attorneys general and ruled that acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad WolfChad WolfSenate to hold nomination hearing for Wolf next week Hillicon Valley: FBI chief says Russia is trying to interfere in election to undermine Biden | Treasury Dept. sanctions Iranian government-backed hackers Democrats slam DHS chief for defying subpoena for testimony on worldwide threats MORE is likely serving in his role unlawfully.

"In sum, the Court concludes that Plaintiffs are likely to demonstrate [former acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin] McAleenan's appointment was invalid under the agency's applicable order of succession, and so he lacked the authority to amend the order of succession to ensure Wolf's installation as Acting Secretary," Judge Paula Xinis's said in a 69-page ruling on Friday.

New York Attorney General Letitia James (D), representing one of the 20 states and 10 cities and counties that last month challenged the Trump administration's new rules, welcomed the decision in a statement Monday. 

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James and other government attorneys had argued the rules limited access to employment authorization for asylum-seekers. The first rule would require asylum-seekers to wait a year before applying for employment authorization, and the second would eliminate requirements that employment authorization applications be processed within 30 days, according to the New York State Attorney General’s Office. 

“Not only is this decision welcome news for asylum seekers who were unfairly targeted by the Trump Administration, but the courts have now found that Chad Wolf has no authority at the Department of Homeland Security,” James said in a statement Monday. 

“Every decision Mr. Wolf has made — from trying to punish Dreamers to targeting New Yorkers with an unlawful Trusted Traveler suspension, and everything in between — has been perpetrated by a man with no authority and no business sitting in the chair of the acting secretary of Homeland Security,” she added. “The Trump Administration’s continued efforts to violate the law and impose draconian orders through lapdog appointees should be immediately stopped and all decisions already executed should be immediately vacated."

A spokesperson for Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was not immediately available for comment. 

The judge’s decision was first reported by CNN, which noted that court documents stated the new rules took effect in late August. 

Xinis wrote that DHS “completely sidestepped this critical impact of the new rules" and that the agency "never wrestled with the fundamental implications of deferring or denying advance work authorization.”

"Substantially limiting approval of work authorization for bona fide asylees will inevitably affect their ability to afford the costs of seeking asylum, including hiring legal counsel," Xinis added.