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This time, a federal judge goes after a policy change that restricted domestic and gang violence victims’ ability to apply for asylum.

A June ruling from then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions restricted the ability of victims of domestic and gang violence to apply for asylum. In December, a federal judge ordered the Trump administration to put the policy on hold.

Judge Emmet Sullivan of the DC District Court ordered the Trump administration to stop using a June ruling from then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions when determining when domestic and gang violence victims who entered the US without papers would be eligible to stay and apply for asylum. In the process, Sullivan took aim at one of the administration’s more innovative tactics: using a little-noticed power of the attorney general to set immigration court precedents that make it harder for immigrants to get legal status.

Sullivan is the same judge who rebuked former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn at a sentencing hearing Tuesday.

The case before Sullivan was brought on behalf of 12 asylum seekers who had been rejected in the initial asylum screening process, an interview with an asylum officer to determine whether they had a “credible fear” of persecution if returned to their home countries. The judge ordered the government not to deport any of the 12, and to bring back the ones who have already been deported.

He also ordered the government to revert to its pre-June 2018 asylum policy in all future credible fear screenings; the Trump administration is already asking the DC Circuit Court of Appeals to stop this part of Sullivan’s order from going into effect.

It’s not clear how big an impact the ruling will have, because it’s not clear how much the Sessions policy actually affected approval rates in credible fear screenings; the overwhelming majority of asylum seekers were still passing their screenings even after the policy went into effect. But Sullivan’s ruling is also a brushback pitch against the administration, warning it against aggressive use of a tactic — having the attorney general set immigration policy by setting binding immigration court precedent — that has not previously been controversial simply because it hasn’t been used very often.

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