Federal Appeals Courts Halt Access to DACA Cancellation Files

Two federal appeals courts, the New York-based 2nd Circuit and the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit, have blocked orders that would have required the Trump administration to present more details about why officials decided to shut down the program offering quasi-legal status and work permits to undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children, Politico reports.

The courts on Tuesday issued stays putting on hold orders by district court judges who had directed the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security to give challengers more records about information and advice considered in when making the decision on DACA last month, Politico adds.

On Tuesday morning, a three-judge 2nd Circuit panel heard arguments on the Justice Department’s request to lift the administration’s obligation to search for and produce records about the move to end DACA. The Justice Department sent one of its top attorneys, Hashim Mooppan, to Manhattan to argue that the government is struggling to locate, review and log thousands of documents related to the decision.

“I would just like to emphasize just how significant the burdens are. One out of every 14 [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] lawyers is devoted to considering the discovery requests in this case. Every DHS litigation lawyer at DHS headquarters is considering the discovery requests in this case. Programmatic interests are being subordinated to follow the discovery requests in this case.” Mooppan told the judges.

Mooppan added that officials were facing the prospect of preparing 30,000 documents by this Friday in a pair of cases, one brought by a DACA recipient and another by the State of New York and 14 other states.

The judges who considered the stay issue expressed puzzlement that the judge in the cases didn’t prioritize the threshold question of whether the courts should be considering the disputes at all, or whether the issue is best left to the executive branch and Congress.

In the order issued Tuesday afternoon, Judges Dennis Jacobs, Robert Sack and Barrington Parker said the temporary stay would be extended until U.S. District Court Judge Nicholas Garaufis “has considered and decided expeditiously issues of jurisdiction and justiciability.”

In San Francisco’s 9th Circuit, a three-judge panel granted the federal government a reprieve from rulings requiring it to turn over legal advice about DACA, along with other materials. Earlier Tuesday, a federal magistrate had ordered that acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke submit to a four-hour deposition by November 15 in connection with a set of five lawsuits pending in San Francisco over the DACA cancellation.

However, the appeals court order from Judges Kim Wardlaw, Ronald Gould and Paul Watford put all that on hold while the 9th Circuit decides what to do with the federal government’s request to overturn orders issued in those cases, Politico notes.

Judges in the Brooklyn and San Francisco cases have said the efforts to complete the factual record were urgent because the Trump administration is planning to begin effectively kicking people out of the DACA program on March 5. The Justice Department declined to comment on the appeals court rulings, Politico writes.

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