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Weekly Round-Up: Google Backs DACA and Immigration Reform; Court Blocks White House Efforts to Stop Refugee Resettlement; Acting DHS Director Resigns

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Google Backs Biden’s Immigration Efforts and Covers DACA Fees

On Wednesday, following President-elect Joe Biden’s announcement that he would propose immigration legislation to Congress immediately after his inauguration, tech giant Google issued a statement that the company would support these immigration efforts. The company further stated that it would help cover application fees for those seeking lawful work through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) program, an Obama-era policy that shields from deportation hundreds of thousands of people who entered the United States as minor children.

Google’s Senior Vice President, Kent Walker, wrote that the company will donate $250,000 to United We Dream, an organization that assists immigrants who arrived in the United States as children to obtain employment authorization and protect themselves from deportation through DACA. Google’s donation would cover the filing fees for about 500 applicants.

Recipients of DACA, also known as “Dreamers,” have faced uncertainty in the program. On November 14, 2020, after three years during which the White House took steps to severely limit the program, a federal court ruled that the Department of Homeland Security must fully reinstate the program and begin reaccepting first-time applications. However, a federal judge could end the acceptance of new applicants in a separate case currently pending in Texas.

Court Upholds Block to Restrictions to Resettle Refugees

On January 8, 2021, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, based in Virginia, upheld a district ruling that blocked President Trump’s executive order allowing state and local governments to deny refugees from resettling in their jurisdictions.

In September 2019, President Trump issued an order requiring state and local officials to notify the State Department if they agreed to participate in refugee resettlement programs. The order further allowed government officials to “refuse for any reason or for no reason at all and need not provide any explanation for their decision.” The Fourth Circuit Court ruled that the executive order violated federal law, which requires the federal government to consult with local jurisdictions regarding where to place refugees but does not give the federal government authority to deny resettlement without justification. The lawsuit to block enforcement of the order was brought by three religious organizations – the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS), and Church World Service (CWS), which all assist refugees from around the world in their efforts to resettle in the United States.

Chad Wolf Resigns

Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf abruptly resigned from his role on Monday, January 11, 2021, citing “recent events” and court rulings that challenged his authority to run the department.

Wolf had been in the position for the past 14 months. President Trump nominated Wolf to the position in August 2019, following the resignation of then-Secretary Kevin McAleenan, and Wolf assumed the role in November 2019 despite never being confirmed by the Senate. As a result, Wolf’s tenure was the subject of repeated litigation over the validity of his position. The White House recently formally rescinded his nomination.

Several lawmakers, including Bennie Thompson (D-MS), Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, questioned the decision and timing of the resignation, which occurred only five days after the events at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, and only nine days before Inauguration Day, particularly because the Department of Homeland Security is responsible for security during that event. Congressman Thompson wrote that for “months we have known Chad Wolf has been serving illegally in his position, so the timing of his resignation from the Department today is questionable. He has chosen to resign during a time of national crisis and when domestic terrorists may be planning additional attacks on our government.”

In Wolf’s place, FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor will assume the role of Acting Secretary of Homeland Security until President-elect Biden’s inauguration.

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