Federal judge says Chad Wolf 'likely' not legitimate DHS secretary, suspends new asylum policies

Peter Weber
·2 min read

A federal judge in Maryland ruled Friday that because the courts will likely agree that acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf is serving in his position unlawfully, new asylum restrictions he enacted are "also 'in excess of ... authority,' and not 'in accordance with the law,'" CNN reported Monday night. The judge, Paula Xinis, suspended those restrictions on asylum seekers for two plaintiffs she found demonstrated standing in the case, Casa de Maryland Inc. (CASA) and Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP).

The federal Government Accountability Office found last month that Wolf and his deputy, Ken Cuccinelli, were appointed in violation of the Vacancies Reform Act. Xinis read the law the same way the GAO did. "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," she wrote.

New York Attorney General Letitia James, who joined 19 other state attorneys general and 10 cities and counties in challenging the asylum rules, welcomed the ruling. "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.

Trump formally nominated Wolf as DHS secretary late last Thursday, after a DHS whistleblower alleged that Wolf and others worked to suppress information about Russian intervening to help President Trump in the upcoming election and downplay the threat of white supremacists. Wolf is unlikely to be confirmed before the election in any case, and all the policy changes he implemented in his 10 months as acting secretary are "in potential jeopardy amid legal challenges," The Associated Press reports.

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