The Supreme Court Wednesday lifted an order requiring the Trump administration to release internal documents relating to the rescission of DACA, an Obama-era amnesty initiative that extended temporary legal status to foreign nationals who illegally entered the country as children.
The order requires a federal court in California to reconsider the administration’s two principal arguments in a lawsuit currently seeking access to the government’s internal deliberations on DACA cancellation. The Justice Department claims the administration need not release internal documents concerning DACA’s cancellation because such decisions cannot be reviewed by the courts, and because federal law deprives trial courts of jurisdiction to hear challenges relating to the Immigration and Nationality Act.
The justices instructed the California court to reconsider these arguments because a finding in the government’s favor would eliminate the necessity of further review of administration records. The order also chided the California court for not allowing the government to explain why its internal documents should remain private.
“In any event, the district court may not compel the government to disclose any document that the government believes is privileged without first providing the government with the opportunity to argue the issue,” the order reads.
There were no noted dissents, though the Court does not publish vote tallies in orders of this nature.
“The discovery order in the DACA cases was dramatically intrusive and premature, and I am pleased with tonight’s decision that the district court’s order was ‘overly broad,'” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement shortly after the ruling. “Make no mistake, this was a crucially important ruling, and the fact it was granted by a unanimous Supreme Court cannot be overstated.”
The administration has furnished just 250 pages of documents relating to the program’s termination. Plaintiffs challenging the decision suspect the government is hiding DACA records, since a decision to cancel the program would generate a large body of documentation. U.S. District Judge William Alsup agreed, and ordered the Department of Homeland Security to release more documents earlier this year. A divided panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Alsup’s ruling, prompting an appeal to the Supreme Court.
A second challenge to DACA’s termination is currently pending before a federal court in Brooklyn, N.Y.
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