THE NEUTRAL ZONE
A Maryland judge ruled that the appointment of Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf was invalid.
Because Wolf was initially appointed by the former Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan, who was himself incorrectly appointed under Homeland Security’s succession rules, McAleenan “lacked the authority” to install Wolf as Acting Secretary. The Government Accountability Office concluded in August that Wolf and his acting deputy Ken Cuccinelli were improperly appointed to their current roles.
U.S. District Judge Paula Xinis therefore ruled Wolf did not have authority to enforce new requirements on employment for asylum seekers, rules that are currently being challenged by 20 state attorneys general and 10 cities and counties. Judge Xinis blocked the two requirements. Under one rule, asylum seekers were required to wait one year before applying for employment. The second rule would cancel the requirement of processing employment authorization applications within 30 days, possibly allowing those applications to remain open indefinitely.
New York Attorney General Letitia James, one of the state attorneys general challenging the new rules, praised the decision. “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 late August, President Donald Trump announced his nomination of Wolf to be the permanent Secretary of Homeland Security. Since the official announcement of the nomination on Sept. 10, the agency has pushed back against a subpoena issued Friday by House Democrats to testify before the Homeland Security Committee. Assistant DHS Secretary Beth Spivey noted that Wolf’s testimony in a matter unrelated to his nomination would go against standard practice, and he therefore would not testify until he is confirmed.
Judge Rules Chad Wolf Serving Unlawfully as DHS Secretary, Lacked Authority to Impose Asylum Restrictions – National Review – 9/15/2020
A federal judge in Maryland on Friday blocked the Trump administration from enforcing two new asylum restrictions and ruled that Chad Wolf’s role as acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security is likely unlawful. […] The judge’s finding came as a result of a case over two asylum rules that a coalition of 20 state attorneys general and ten cities and counties have challenged in court. Xinis ruled to temporarily block the rules, which the attorneys generals said limited access to employment authorization for asylum seekers, while the lawsuit is heard.
Federal judge says Chad Wolf’s DHS leadership “likely” not valid – Newsweek – 9/15/2020
Wolf’s potentially invalid ascension was revealed in an August report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which said Wolf and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli were promoted because of an “invalid order of succession.” Under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, individuals within the DHS had been improperly promoted since the 2019 departure of former DHS Secretary Kirstjen Neilsen.
Federal Judge: DHS’ Chad Wolf Likely Serving Unlawfully – Newsmax – 9/15/2020
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.
Chad Wolf’s Leadership of Department of Homeland Security Is Likely Unlawful, Judge Rules – The Daily Beast – 9/15/2020
The opinion came as part of a challenge to the Trump administration’s new asylum restrictions, which have been temporarily blocked because Wolf may lack the authority needed to introduce them. Judge Paula Xinis’ ruling said: “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.”