A U.S. federal judge has ordered a preliminary injunction blocking the Trump administration from ending protections that have allowed about 300,000 people from Haiti, Sudan, Nicaragua and El Salvador to live and work in the United States.
The U.S. government can grant Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, for countries where conditions are unsafe for their nationals to return, or where the government is unable to adequately handle their return because of something like a natural disaster.
With TPS revoked, those covered under the program would be subject to deportation from the United States.
‘Harm and great hardship’
Judge Edward Chen of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California said in his order Wednesday that without an injunction, the TPS beneficiaries and their children “indisputably will suffer irreparable harm and great hardship.”
He said the government must take actions to preserve the program as it stands, keeping it in place until the court has fully ruled on the overall lawsuit challenging the government’s decision to end TPS for the four countries.
Chen wrote that while those in the TPS program would face hardships if the termination orders go into effect, the government has “failed to establish any real harm where the status quo is maintained” while the legal process continues. He further added the plaintiffs and outside entities that have filed briefs in the case have “established without dispute that local and national economies will be hurt if hundreds of thousands of TPS beneficiaries are uprooted and removed.”
“Beneficiaries who have lived, worked, and raised families in the United States (many for more than a decade), will be subject to removal,” Chen wrote.
Many have children who were born in the U.S. and may be faced with the choice of “bringing their children with them (and tearing them away from the only country and community they have known) or splitting their families apart,” the ruling said.
Decision criticized, welcomed
The Justice Department criticized the injunction in a statement late Wednesday, saying the court had wrongly taken power to decide such matters from the executive branch of government.
“The court contends that the duly elected president of the United States cannot be involved in matters deciding the safety and security of our nation’s citizens or in the enforcement of immigration laws,” spokesman Devin O’Malley said. “We will continue to fight for the integrity of our immigration laws and our national security.”
The International Rescue Committee welcomed the decision, calling it a “temporary step away from impossible decisions and risk” for those covered under TPS.
No foreign policy, security interests
Judge Chen wrote that the Department of Homeland Security in deciding to terminate TPS for Haiti, Sudan, Nicaragua and El Salvador has not relied on any foreign policy or national security interests to support its actions.
DHS announcements have said the conditions under which those countries were covered under the program no longer exist.
Of the four countries, Sudan is to lose its TPS status first. It was designated for protection in 1997 because of armed conflict and extraordinary conditions that prevented people from returning home.
The Department of Homeland Security said in October 2017 that TPS status for the roughly 1,000 registered people from Sudan would be terminated in November 2018.
El Salvador has by far the most nationals covered under the program with more than 260,000. Its TPS designation came after a series of powerful earthquakes in 2001, but DHS said in January people could go back to the country and that TPS for El Salvador would be terminated in January 2019.
January 2019 would also bring the end of TPS protection for Nicaragua, which was designated in 1999 because of devastation from a hurricane. It has about 5,300 people registered in the program.
Haiti was designated for protection in 2010 after a massive earthquake devastated the country. The Trump administration said in November 2017 the conditions that prevented people from safely returning home no longer existed, and that TPS protections for about 59,000 people would end in July 2019.