Judge rejects Trump limits on 'Dreamer' immigration programme

President Donald Trump entered office promising to halt almost all immigration and to expel the more than 10 million people estimated living in the US. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - A judge has rejected the White House's limitations on a programme protecting 700,000 so-called "Dreamers" - undocumented migrants brought to the United States as children.

The federal judge in New York on Saturday (Nov 14) ruled that US President Donald Trump's acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf was not lawfully serving in his role when he issued the new rules for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca) programme in July.

The ruling is another victory for proponents of the Barack Obama-era programme after the US Supreme Court in June rejected Mr Trump's cancellation of it.

President-elect Joe Biden, who defeated Mr Trump in the Nov 3 polls, had pledged to reinstate the programme when he takes office on Jan 20.

Mr Wolf, who has not been confirmed in his role by the US Senate, issued new restrictions on the programme in response to the Supreme Court ruling.

Saturday's court decision said his restrictions "effectively suspended" Daca, while the Trump administration reviewed how to proceed.

Mr Wolf's rules said new applications would not be accepted and renewals would be limited to one year instead of two.

They are now invalid because "the court holds that Mr Wolf was not lawfully serving as Acting Secretary of Homeland Security under the Homeland Security Act" when he issued them, the ruling said.

Judge Nicholas Garaufis said the correct order of succession had not been followed for the acting secretary appointment.

It was not the first time Mr Wolf has seen the legality of his appointment as acting secretary in 2019 drawn into question.

Mr Trump entered office promising to halt almost all immigration and to expel the more than 10 million people estimated living in the country, many for decades, without legal immigration documents.

The Obama administration sought to address the issue in 2012, with the Daca policy offering protection at renewable two-year periods, including authorisation to work, to people brought into the United States illegally as children and then growing up here.

Daca, and the subsequent Dapa programme - Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents - were executive actions by Mr Obama to eliminate the constant threat of deportation for more than four million undocumented migrants.

Mr Trump cancelled Dapa just after coming to office and then went after the more established Daca, but immediately faced a series of court battles over it.

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