Law & the Courts

Judge Blocks Administration From Withdrawing Protected Status from 300,000 Immigrants

Immigrant families at a bus depot in McAllen, Texas, July 28, 2018. (Loren Elliott/Reuters)

A federal judge issued a temporary injunction Wednesday blocking the Trump administration’s attempt to remove temporary protected status from more than 300,000 immigrants, initially permitted entry into the country due to natural disasters and other hardships in their places of birth.

The immigrants, who hail from Nicaragua, El Salvador, Haiti and Sudan, would otherwise be forced to leave the country or change their immigration status before their temporary protected status, which in many cases was granted more than a decade ago, expires.

San Francisco-based U.S. District Court Judge Edward Chen ruled against the administration on the grounds that forcing parents to choose between parting with their children, or forcing their children to leave the U.S., would impose undue hardship on those effected.

Chen, an Obama appointee, bolstered his opinion by appeal to Trump’s racial “animus,” which he suggested may have impacted the decision to rescind temporary protected status from “non-white, non-European individuals.”

“Because there is evidence that President Trump and/or the White House influenced the DHS on the TPS decisions to at least raise serious question on the merits, the remaining issue is whether there is evidence that President Trump harbors an animus against non-white, non- European aliens which influenced his (and thereby the secretary’s) decision to end the TPS designation,” Chen wrote in the 43-page decision. “As plaintiffs have catalogued, there is evidence of such as reflected by statements made by President Trump before, during, and after the TPS decision-making process.”

The Judge went on to cite Trump’s “remarks characterizing Mexican immigrants as drug dealers or users, criminals and rapists” as evidence of his racial hostility.

Temporary protected status was initially intended to extend only until beneficiaries’ home countries recovered from the various natural disasters that initially warranted humanitarian protections. Past administrations, however, have renewed the visas automatically on an annual basis rather than allowing them to expire.

Nicaraguans received temporary protected status in 1998, Salvadorans became beneficiaries in 2001, Haitians received protections following the massive earthquake there in 2011, and the Sudanese entered in 2013.

The Department of Justice issued a forceful statement in response to the ruling, accusing Chen of usurping the authority of the executive branch.

“The Justice Department completely rejects the notion that the White House or the Department of Homeland Security did anything improper. We will continue to fight for the integrity of our immigration laws and our national security,” said spokesman Devin O’Malley.


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