A federal judge says acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf is likely serving unlawfully and has placed a temporary ban keeping the Trump administration from its enforcement of new asylum restrictions against people in two immigration advocacy groups.
District Judge Paula Xinis in Maryland said the court concluded a coalition that has sued the administration over a new work asylum rule is likely to show that former acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan's appointment was not valid under the agency's order of succession, so he did not have have the authority to allow Wolf's installation as acting secretary, reports CNN.
That means that because Wolf had filled the role without authority, he exceeded his authority by declaring the restrictions, the court found.
New York Attorney General Letitia James on Monday welcomed the rules, saying in a statement that Wolf is a man with "no authority and no business sitting in the chair of the acting secretary of Homeland Security."
"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," she said.
Both Wolf and Ken Cuccinelli, who is acting as deputy secretary, were appointed through an invalid order of succession, the Government Accountability Office has previously found.
President Donald Trump has nominated Wolf for confirmation. The department has not had a Senate-confirmed secretary since April 2019, when former Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was forced to resign.
The coalition of 20 state attorneys general and state and local officials that filed the lawsuit say new immigration rules that took effect in late August limit employment authorization for asylum seekers.
"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 wrote in her ruling.
The order only granted relief to members of Casa de Maryland, Inc. (CASA) and Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP). The organizations have around 100,000 and 4,000 members each.
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