The Trump administration must turn over all emails and memos used to make its decision to phase out Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the 2012 program created to protect undocumented youths from deportation, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.
If the communications between the White House and the departments of Justice and Homeland Security are made public, it could offer a window into the political machinations behind the Trump administration’s abrupt call to torpedo DACA.
The order is part of an ongoing lawsuit brought by several parties in the Northern District of California in an effort to overturn the Trump administration’s decision last month to rescind the program.
The Trump administration left DACA in place for months, even after scrapping rules that conflicted with the president’s immigration priorities in February and after canceling an Obama administration program in June that would have shielded the undocumented parents of U.S. citizens from deportation. That program, known by its acronym, DAPA, was never implemented due to a legal challenge led by the state of Texas.
But U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Sept. 5 that the White House would end the DACA program, arguing that a looming legal threat, again led by the state of Texas, would likely result in the courts declaring the program unconstitutional. Immigrant rights groups and many prominent Democrats criticized that logic, noting that the program had hummed along for five years without legal challenge.
Trump’s about-face on DACA was widely viewed as a triumph of immigration hard-liners in his administration, including Sessions, who viewed the program as unconstitutional.
Lawyers representing the administration have already supplied the court with a series of documents explaining their rationale for nixing DACA.
But U.S. District Judge William Alsup noted that lawyers representing the federal government in oral arguments had acknowledged they rescinded DACA with input from the White House. “Despite this, defendants have failed to provide even a single document from any White House officials or staff,” the decision reads.
The documents supplied by the Trump administration also failed to include any communications with subordinates of Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke, who might have helped shape the decision to end DACA. “It strains credulity to suggest that the Acting Secretary of DHS decided to rescind a program covering 800,000 enrollees without consulting one advisor or subordinate within DHS,” the ruling says.
Alsup ordered the Trump administration to also provide similar documents that informed Kelly’s decision to leave the DACA program intact in February, when he canceled the Obama administration’s deportation priorities.
The Trump administration has been ordered to hand the documents over to the court by Oct. 27.
Five lawsuits challenging the Trump administration’s decision to kill DACA filed in the Northern District of California were consolidated into one. That lawsuit includes the one filed by a coalition of states led by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D) and another filed by Janet Napolitano, the secretary of homeland security in the Obama administration.
Separate lawsuits challenging the end of DACA were also filed in New York.
The lawsuits typically argue that the White House violated the Administrative Procedure Act when it canceled the program, resulting in a due process violation.