A federal judge in California has temporarily halted the Trump administration’s efforts to suspend the legal status of nearly 300,000 Haitian, Nicaraguan, Sudanese and Salvadoran immigrants who fled to the U.S. to escape violence and disaster in their native countries.
In his decision Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Edward M. Chen of San Francisco cited what he called substantial evidence proving President Donald Trump’s administration lacked “any explanation or justification” to end the temporary protected status of immigrants from the aforementioned countries.
Chen also noted there were “serious questions as to whether a discriminatory purpose was a motivating factor” in the administration’s efforts and cited statements by Trump attacking Muslims, Mexican and African immigrants. In January, the former “Apprentice” star sparked international outrage when he described Haiti, El Salvador and African nations as “shithole” countries.
“Why do we need more Haitians?” Trump said, according to unnamed figures who attended the contentious meeting discussing protections for immigrants from Haiti, Africa and El Salvador as part of a failed bipartisan immigration deal. “Take them out.”
Per The Washington Post, the Ramos v. Nielsen suit is just one of several cases where the president’s incendiary comments have been cited by judges to block the administration’s contested policies on issues like immigration and LGBTQ rights. The ACLU of Northern and Southern California, among other organizations, filed the lawsuit in March on behalf of TPS recipients who faced the possibility of deportation as a result of the administration’s actions.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced plans to terminate the temporary protected status (TPS) of immigrants from Haiti, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Sudan, arguing that the harrowing conditions that prompted the immigrants to flee were no longer present in their nations.
In their complaint, plaintiffs argued the change was based on “animus against non-white, non-European immigrants.” Chen agreed, writing there was both direct and circumstantial evidence proving race was a motivating factor in DHS’s decision.
Moreover, the judge said the plaintiffs presented a “substantial record” showing the department’s move to alter various criteria affecting the TPS program were unjustified and violated the Administrative Procedure Act, a law requiring agencies to make orderly decisions based on reasoned judgment to prevent “arbitrary” actions by the federal government.
Instead of basing their decisions on what the evidence showed, Chen found the administration seemingly made its decision based on a “preordained result desired by the White House,” the Washington Post reported. Moreover, Chen argued that the potential harm to the immigrants forced to return to their war-torn and disaster-struck countries far outweighed any harm to the government.
“Absent injunctive relief, TPS beneficiaries and their children indisputably will suffer irreparable harm and great hardship,” Chen wrote. “TPS beneficiaries who have lived, worked, and raised families in the United States (many for more than a decade), will be subject to removal. Many have U.S.-born children; those may be faced with the Hobson’s choice of bringing their children with them or splitting their families apart.”
The Justice Department issued a scathing response to the ruling, accusing Chen of usurping the president’s security and immigration powers.
“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,” spokesman Devin O’Malley said in a statement.
Meanwhile, immigrant-rights advocates cheered the decision as a major victory against Trump’s anti-immigration agenda.
“The hundreds of thousands of workers with TPS who build our cities and keep them running deserve the security of knowing the lives they’ve built in the US are safe,” said advocacy group Working Families United. “This shows that Trump’s move to terminate TPS was based in his racial motivations and not in any law or consideration of safety.”
As of this year, over 262,000 people from El Salvador, 58,000 from Haiti, 5,300 from Nicaragua and 1,000 from Sudan held TPS, according to a tally cited by The Washington Times.