Jeff Chiu / AP
A federal appeals court ruled Monday that the Trump administration can end humanitarian protection for around 300,000 immigrants living in the United States, clearing the way for their possible deportation starting next year.
The 9th Court of Appeal ruling affects citizens of El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan, many of whom have lived in the US for decades, have US-born children, and are considered essential workers during the coronavirus pandemic.
It is about ending temporary protection status, a form of humanitarian aid created by Congress and administered by the Department of Homeland Security.
TPS grants work permits and deportation permits to foreign nationals living in the US whose countries of origin are exposed to natural disasters, armed conflict, or other “exceptional and temporary conditions” that make it unsafe for them to return.
The Trump administration terminated the TPS designations of El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan in 2017 and 2018. (The TPS was later terminated for Honduras and Nepal, and a separate case filed by citizens of those countries last year is still ongoing.)
Several TPS beneficiaries from the four countries and their children filed a lawsuit against the dismissal, both on procedural grounds and on the grounds that the rule was motivated by animus towards “non-white, non-European immigrants”, as evidenced by comments was made by Trump and other administrative officials.
A district court had previously issued an injunction. The decision of a three-judge panel of the appellate court on Monday lifts the injunction, which means immigrants from the affected countries could be deported from January.
Plaintiffs and their attorneys said Monday they were preparing to appeal the decision across the 9th Circuit.
The National TPS Alliance, a grassroots advocacy group, said the ruling paved the way for the government to “de-document and tear apart” some 400,000 families.
The group explains that TPS provides protection for short periods of up to 18 months, but the federal government has continuously extended it to the countries named in the lawsuit, “based on repeated findings that return remains unsafe”.
As a result, most TPS owners have lived in the United States for more than a decade, contributing to their communities and raising their families.
Many of the more than 200,000 U.S. citizen children of TPS owners have never been to the country their parents are from and faced with a choice between their families and their homes.
“This government has failed me and the other 250,000 US citizen children of TPS holders,” said Crista Ramos, lead plaintiff on the case.
The role of race
Two of the three judges ruled that plaintiffs could not demonstrate that racial animation was a factor when the government canceled TPS.
After summarizing the decision of the court:
The [judges] stated that the district court’s findings that President Trump was expressing racial animation against “non-white, non-European” immigrants and that the White House influenced TPS dismissal decisions were backed by file, but the district court did not cite evidence similar to that of the president linked Animus to the TPS layoffs – for example, evidence that the President personally attempted to influence the TPS layoffs or that all administrative officials involved in the TPS decision-making process were themselves motivated by Animus.
Beth Werlin, the executive director of the American Immigration Council, said she was disappointed with the court’s refusal to recognize a link between Trump’s statements and the government’s decision to end TPS.
“The racist animus that led to these decisions is real and cannot be ignored,” said Werlin.
Effects on families and communities
Immigration advocacy groups are slamming the court’s decision, finding that it will affect hundreds of thousands of TPS owners as well as their families and communities.
In a statement, Werlin said the decision will “plunge her life into further turmoil if we all need more security”.
As the global pandemic expands, protected immigrants make up a large portion of the country’s frontline workers. According to the Center for American Progress, more than 130,000 TPS recipients are a vital workforce.
“TPS recipients have deep economic and social roots in communities across the country,” said Ali Noorani, president and CEO of the National Immigration Forum. “And as the US responds to the COVID-19 pandemic, TPS recipients stand shoulder to shoulder with Americans doing important work.”
The 32BJ of Service Employees International Union, the country’s largest property services union, found that thousands of such immigrants own homes and businesses and, as long-time union members, clean and protect vital properties.
“It is deeply disturbing and frankly angry that the Ninth Circuit is allowing the Trump administration to end temporary protection status for El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan, opening the prospect of deportation for hundreds of thousands of people coming to the United States Have declared their legal home for decades, “said President Kyle Bragg.
Support for exiting the temporary state
The Federation for American Immigration Reform, which advocates lower levels of immigration, hailed the ruling as “a victory for the American people and an unmistakable reprimand for activist judges trying to shape immigration policy from the bank.”
“This decision is an asset to the idea that the American people should be able to provide necessary and appropriate temporary humanitarian assistance with the full expectation that their generosity will not be exploited when the emergency is over,” FAIR said -President Dan Stein in a statement.
El Salvador extension
TPS holders from El Salvador, one of the affected countries, already have a slightly longer window of time to stay in the US
The Trump administration announced last fall that it would extend the validity of work permits for El Salvadorians with TPS until January 4, 2021. In addition, El Savadorans with protection status will be granted repatriation for an additional year after the TPS-related lawsuits are closed.
El Salvador has the highest number of TPS recipients in the US, while its home country has the highest per capita homicide rate in the world, according to the National Immigration Forum. The group says Monday’s decision will affect an estimated 300,000 Salvadorans, more than half of whom have been in the United States for at least 20 years.