NEW YORK — A federal appeals court handed the U.S. government a victory Tuesday in its fight against lawsuits opposing a decision to end a program protecting some young immigrants from deportation.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan directed Brooklyn judges to expeditiously decide if a court can properly review the decision to end in March the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. The government insists it cannot.
Activists are suing the government in New York, California, the District of Columbia and Maryland. DACA has protected about 800,000 people, many of them currently in college, who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children or came with families that overstayed visas.
A three-judge 2nd Circuit panel issued a brief order after hearing oral arguments. It said the government will not have to continue to produce documents or submit to depositions before the lower court decides whether the cases can proceed. It also said it will only decide the issue of whether to order the lower court to limit document production once those issues are addressed.
Attorney Michael Wishnie, who argued for plaintiffs suing the government, praised the appeals court for having “moved swiftly to address the government filings in this case.”
And he noted that a Brooklyn judge gave the government until Friday to submit written arguments on the legal issues the appeals court said must be resolved before the case proceeds. The plaintiffs must submit their arguments by Nov. 1.
Earlier Tuesday, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Hashim M. Mooppan told the appeals court panel the government planned to ask the Brooklyn federal court by early next week to dismiss the lawsuits.
He said lawyers fighting the government were engaging in a “massive fishing expedition” for documents and testimony that would reveal the deliberative processes at the highest levels of the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department. He called it “wholly improper.”
Mooppan seemed to get a sympathetic ear from appeals judges, with one of them saying the government’s opponents seemed to be pursuing “a disguised application under the Freedom of Information Act.”
“There are a lot of different ways this is very wrong, your honor. That might be one of them,” Mooppan said.
He said the courts should not entertain challenges to government actions by those who merely assert “there is bad faith behind them.”
Wishnie told the appeals panel that the government’s claims that it was overly burdened by requests to turn over tens of thousands of pages of documents relate to a lawsuit in San Francisco.
He said two New York lawsuits, including one brought by 15 states and the District of Columbia, have proceeded in a “measured and deliberate” manner that has required very little document production by the government.
Wishnie spoke after Circuit Judge Barrington D. Parker cited government claims that it was asked to produce between 30,000 and 1 million documents.