A federal judge in Marlyand ruled on Friday that acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Chad Wolf was appointed illegally.
Judge Paula Xinis ruled that the previous acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan's appointment was also invalid, so Mr Wolf - who came into his position through an amendment to the agency's succession order made by Mr McAleenan - also came to power illegally.
Judge Xinis also has temporarily barred Donald Trump's administration from enforcing asylum restrictions on members of a pair of immigration advocacy groups.
Under Judge Xinis' ruling, Mr Wolf does not have the authority to impose the asylum rules that the immigration groups have challenged. According to CNN, the asylum rules at the heart of the challenge deal with employment and took effect in late August.
Despite the judge's ruling, there is no indication that Mr Wolf or his second-in-command, Ken Cuccinelli, will be leaving their positions.
Earlier this year, the Trump administration appealed a federal judgment that it was unlawful to appoint Mr Cuccinelli to his position.
In response to Judge Xinis' ruling, the DHS Inspector General Joseph Cuffari said he would not launch an internal investigation into the validity of Mr Wolf and Mr Cuccinelli's appointments.
Mr Cuffari said to do so would be "pointless" for the inspector general to "add its voice to what has become a bitter inter-branch disagreement."
The other branch Mr Cuffari is referring to is the Government Accountability Office, which reported in August that the men were appointed based on an invalid order of succession and that questioned the legality of orders issued by the men since their installation at the agency.
"Neither GAO nor DHS OIG can issue a binding determination on that issue, but a federal court can and probably will," Mr Cuffari said in a response to questions from Democratic Representatives Bennie Thompson and Carolyn Maloney regarding the situation at the DHS.
Both of the Democratic lawmakers have called for the resignations of Mr Wolf and Mr Cucinnelli based on the GAO's findings.
On Tuesday, a spokesman for DHS said that "GAO's report was erroneous, non-binding, and issued under highly questionable authority under federal law."
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