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Trump administration must accept new DACA applications, judge orders

Updated 8:42 AM ET, Sun December 6, 2020

(CNN)The Trump administration must post a public notice that it will accept new applications for the Obama-era program shielding undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children from deportation, a federal judge ordered Friday.

Judge Nicholas Garaufis' latest order builds on his November ruling where he found that Chad Wolf was not legally serving as acting Homeland Security secretary when he signed rules limiting applications and renewals for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

The Trump administration tried ending DACA in 2017, but the US Supreme Court blocked its attempt in June. In light of the Supreme Court's ruling, Wolf issued a memo in July saying that new applications for DACA would not be accepted and renewals would be limited to one year instead of two amid an ongoing review. The memo had sought to buy time while the administration decided its next steps.

Plaintiffs welcomed Friday's order.

"Immigrant youth have resisted this cruel administration's continuous attacks, and once more we have won," said Johana Larios. "Now, first-time applicants like me will be able to have access to the DACA program and current recipients will be able to breathe a little easier as DACA is restored to its original form. I am now able to look forward to returning to school, and feel safe that I won't be separated from my community."

Chase Jennings, a spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security, said in a statement to CNN on Sunday that the department "wholly disagree with this decision" and claimed that it was made "by yet another activist judge acting from his own policy preferences." "Judge Garaufis's latest decision, similar to his earlier inaccurate ruling, is clearly not sound law or logic," Jennings said. "We will abide by this decision while we work with DOJ on next steps to appeal." Garaufis' Friday order appears to nod to the administration's handling of the Supreme Court ruling, calling for DHS to publicly -- and prominently -- provide notice that it will accept new applications and return to two-year renewals. "DHS is DIRECTED to post a public notice, within 3 calendar days of this Order, to be displayed prominently on its website and on the websites of all other relevant agencies, that it is accepting first-time requests for consideration of deferred action under DACA, renewal requests, and advance parole requests, based on the terms of the DACA program prior to September 5, 2017, and in accordance with this court's Memorandum & Order of November 14, 2020," Garaufis wrote. Garaufis also again slammed Wolf's appointment, which has repeatedly come under scrutiny. The Department of Homeland Security tried to self-correct its line of succession by having Pete Gaynor, who is the Senate-confirmed Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator, temporarily exercise the authority of Homeland Security secretary to try to alleviate concerns over Wolf's legitimacy as acting chief of the department. "Neither Administrator Gaynor nor Mr. Wolf currently possesses, nor have they ever possessed, the powers of the Acting Secretary of Homeland Security," Garaufis wrote in a footnote. Garaufis ordered that Wolf's memo detailing new DACA rules be vacated. This story has been updated with DHS' statement to CNN on Sunday.

CNN's Chandelis Duster and Maria Santana contributed to this report.

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