(CN) — A coalition of U.S. states and civil rights groups can seek out evidence that racial discrimination sparked the Trump administration’s policy change preventing immigrants who received public assistance from receiving green cards.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Ona Wang issued her ruling during a phone hearing on Wednesday afternoon.
“I find that the plaintiffs have made the requisite strong showing so that extra-record discovery should go through,” Wang said, noting that U.S. District Judge George Daniels also made that finding in issuing multiple injunctions blocking the so-called “public charge” rule.
Those blocking orders have been stayed temporarily on appeal.
Attorney Daniel Sinnreich, who represents Make the Road New York and other civil rights groups for the firm Paul Weiss, called discovery necessary to “smoke out” racial animus behind the policy change.
“Obviously, government actors are smart enough not to say the quiet part out loud,” Sinnreich said in the hearing.
While Justice Department attorney Keri Lane Berman argued that the rights groups needed evidence of bad faith in order to obtain discovery, Sinnreich countered: “It’s hard to imagine a case of this posture where the allegations of bad faith have been more pronounced.”
The public charge rule, which took effect nearly one year ago, quickly inspired a dozen lawsuits for presenting daunting barriers to legal permanent residency to immigrants who use any form of public benefits, including housing, health care and food stamps.
“It is repugnant to the American Dream of the opportunity for prosperity and success through hard work and upward mobility,” Daniels wrote in a fiery opinion last year. “Immigrants have always come to this country seeking a better life for themselves and their posterity. With or without help, most succeed.”
The Supreme Court preventing the judge’s blocking order from taking effect until the high court hears the case.
Upholding the ruling, the Second Circuit limited the scope of its relief to the three states that filed the lawsuit: New York, Connecticut and Vermont.
“The issuance of nationwide injunctions has been the subject of increasing scrutiny in recent years, a topic that has already touched these cases on their brief foray to the Supreme Court,” wrote U.S. Circuit Judge Gerard Lynch, an Obama appointee explaining his reasoning for striking down the initial nationwide injunction.
Long a boogeyman of conservative justices, nationwide injunctions have come under increasing political fire with U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr denouncing the string of federal courts blocking Trump administration policies as illegal.
The more limited injunction will be at issue when the Supreme Court hears the case.