Families sue over lifting of protected status
Action covers broad group including Salvadorans, Haitians
Another federal lawsuit was filed Monday on behalf of immigrants who hold a type of temporary legal protection but face deportation as the Trump administration lifts that protection.
This suit covers a much broader group of people than two previous suits and includes Salvadorans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Sudanese who hold Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, and their U.S. citizen children. The suit, therefore, has much more potential impact.
Salvadorans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Sudanese are about to lose immigration protections after years of living in the United States.
The suit was brought by veteran lawyers of immigration battles, including Ahilan Arulanantham of the ACLU of Southern California. Arulanantham was a 2016 winner of a genius award from the Macarthur Foundation.
The new suit is “the only one to raise claims on behalf of the citizen children of TPS holders,” the ACLU attorney said. “They suffer a unique harm that the other cases have not addressed, at least directly.
“While the government may argue that non-citizens have fewer rights in the immigration context, that rationale obviously cannot apply the same way when we speak of American citizens, and particularly those who are not yet adults.”
At the San Francisco news conference to announce the suit, Emi Maclean, an attorney with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, highlighted the established process for granting TPS protection and the issue of race as well as past comments by President Donald Trump when talking about the legal team’s strategy for the lawsuit.
“The decisions by this administration to terminate TPS were not based on country conditions as the law requires and as all prior administrations have done,” Maclean said. “Instead they were motivated by racial animus.”
The National Day Laborer Organizing Network and the corporate law firm of Sidley Austin joined in the suit against the Department of Homeland Security.
In Washington, D.C., a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security said the agency doesn’t comment on pending litigation as a matter of policy. Supporters of the termination have argued that the legal status was temporary — and shouldn’t have been prolonged with continuous renewals, usually after 18-month periods.
TPS was established by law in 1990 for certain countries facing civil conflict and natural disaster. It provides work permits and deportation relief but not a pathway to U.S. citizenship.
There are more than 200,000 TPS holders from these four countries, according to the suit, and they have about 220,000 U.s.-born citizen children. Only recently, though, has a National TPS Alliance formed with leadership that includes Fort Worthbased Edwin Murillo, a TPS holder from El Salvador who attended the San Francisco event.
The suit argues that the federal government didn’t follow proper procedures of analysis of country conditions when it announced TPS would end for those countries. The lawyers also argue that racial and national origin animus drove the Trump administration to make its rulings. The suit further alleges that the termination decision violates the constitutional rights of school-age U.S. citizen children of TPS holders by presenting an “impossible choice: They must either leave their country or live without their parents.”
In all cases, TPS holders have been allowed to file for TPS a final time before their permits expire. The Salvadorans, who represent the largest group, have until Sept. 9, 2019.
Earlier this year, more narrowly focused suits were brought by the NAACP and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights in Boston.
Fourteen-year-old Crista Ramos’ name is listed first among the plaintiffs, which include four other U.S. citizen children of people with TPS permits, as well as nine TPS holders.
“I don’t think it is fair that I have to choose to stay in my country or go to El Salvador with my mom,” said Ramos at a televised news conference in San Francisco. “I don’t want the government to split my family.”
Angela Henriquez hugged her children, Jessica (left) and Fernando, during a San Francisco news conference announcing a lawsuit against the Trump administration.