A federal judge on Wednesday delivered an "incredible" win for immigrant rights advocates and beneficiaries of Temporary Protected Status (TPS), blocking the Trump administration from ending protections for more than 300,000 people from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan who live in the United States.
"Ever since the TPS terminations were announced, I have been wondering how I can live a normal life if I am about to lose my mom."
—14-year old lead plaintiff Crista Ramos
San Francisco-based U.S. District Court Judge Edward Chen concluded in his 43-page ruling (pdf) that the TPS holders from those four countries and their children—including many who were born in the United States—would "suffer irreparable harm and great hardship" absent the court's temporary injunction.
The program was established in 1990 and grants protections to foreign nationals for various reasons, including ongoing armed conflicts, environmental disasters, and epidemics. A group of Sudanese beneficiaries were set to lose their TPS on Nov. 2.
Beyond the impacts that terminating protections would have on beneficiaries and their families, as the ACLU of Southern California pointed out on Twitter, the court also found that "there is sufficient evidence that racism is a motivating factor behind [President Donald] Trump's decision to terminate TPS."
The Court finds that there is sufficient evidence that racism is a motivating factor behind Trump's decision to terminate #TPS.
— ACLU SoCal (@ACLU_SoCal) October 4, 2018
Acknowledging that such protections were commonly renewed under past administrations—and that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), under Trump, improperly altered the criteria for such renewals, violating federal law—Chen wrote that "not only is there direct evidence of animus, but there is also circumstantial evidence of race being a motivating factor."
"The impact of the TPS terminations clearly bears more heavily on non-white, non-European individuals; indeed, it affects those populations exclusively," he noted. "The sequence of events leading up to the challenged decisions are irregular and suggestive of a pre-determined outcome not based on an objective assessment."
"If these children's parents were not from countries the administration considers unworthy of humanity, we would not have to wage this fight. But we do, and we will not relent."
—Ahilan Arulanantham, ACLU of Southern California
Emi MacLean, co-legal director at the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) and attorney for the plaintiffs, said the judge's ruling "vindicates the brave struggle of TPS holders to defend the Constitution in the face of the Trump administration's discriminatory attack on this humanitarian program."
Chen's ruling, added New York Immigration Coalition executive director Steven Choi, "affirmed that this country is still governed by laws, not racially motivated tweets or rants.
Referencing reports from January that during a closed-door meeting with Republican lawmakers, Trump referred to Haiti, El Salvador, and African nations as "shitholes countries," ACLU of Southern California executive director Hector Villagra declared, "Shithole order blocked." The decision was widely celebrated by the immigrant rights community and the plaintiffs.
"Ever since the TPS terminations were announced, I have been wondering how I can live a normal life if I am about to lose my mom," lead plaintiff Crista Ramos, a 14-year old U.S. citizen whose mother is from El Salvador, said in a statement released by the ACLU. "Today, my family and I are celebrating. Tomorrow, we will continue our fight for permanent status for TPS holders."
"If these children's parents were not from countries the administration considers unworthy of humanity, we would not have to wage this fight. But we do, and we will not relent," vowed Ahilan Arulanantham, senior counsel at the ACLU of Southern California and attorney for the plaintiffs. He denounced Trump's efforts to dismantle the program as "unlawful" and "cruel."
UNITE HERE has fought to protect TPS alongside other groups including the National TPS Alliance, CARECEN-Los Angeles, and African Communities Together. After the ruling, the labor union noted how organized protests—such as a historic blockade of the Port of Los Angeles by the Teamsters on Wednesday—have enhanced efforts to safeguard the program from the president's attacks, and called on Congress to "create a roadmap to legal residency" for TPS holders.
Good news, we're still fighting. This is a temporary injunction to #SaveTPS. Congress must create a roadmap to legal residency for our families to be safe and whole
— UNITE HERE #1Job (@unitehere) October 4, 2018
Progressive New York congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, on Twitter, called the win "a big deal" and promised to "keep fighting for a path to citizenship for all families who've built beautiful lives and contributed to our communities to make a home."
This is a big deal. Standing with all our TPS neighbors today.
Stay strong - we will keep fighting for a path to citizenship for all families who’ve built beautiful lives & contributed to our communities to make a home. https://t.co/DrGtpCDrNg
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@Ocasio2018) October 4, 2018