A federal judge on Tuesday directed the Biden administration to take action after a conservative group sued to reveal government records about Prince Harry's immigration to the U.S.
U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols urged the government to decide how it will respond to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request from The Heritage Foundation, a Washington-based think tank, that aims to obtain documents related to the Duke of Sussex's visa and legal status in the U.S.
Harry, who married Meghan Markle in 2018, moved to California in 2020 after stepping back from the British royal family.
Visa applications are not typically disclosed publicly due to privacy concerns.
But the Heritage Foundation filed a lawsuit last week to get Harry's immigration documents, calling for DHS to expedite its FOIA process because of media coverage of the prince's admitted drug use when he was younger.
The Heritage Foundation has said in court filings that the drug use “surfaced the question” about whether Harry received favorable treatment in being granted entry to the U.S. and whether Harry disclosed his past in his visa application, as required.
The question of whether immigration authorities must release the documents has not been taken up by the federal court. Judge Nichols said Tuesday that he was “frustrated” he was instead forced to consider a “highly technical and procedural” freedom of information question instead of getting straight to the merits of the case.
DHS now must decide whether it can release any of the requested documents, expedite the FOIA process or deny The Heritage Foundation request. If the foundation is denied, they could seek to have the judge release the paperwork in the public interest -- a claim the government has played down.
Federal lawyers argued on Tuesday that the U.K. tabloids noted by the Heritage Foundation as significant examples of public interest were not “mainstream media” to most Americans.
Multiple sub-agencies of DHS, including U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, have already denied the foundation's request, according to a Justice Department attorney.
ABC News' Luke Barr contributed to this report.