Advocates take to court for immigrants
Lawyers for the Department of Justice yesterday asked a federal judge in Boston to dismiss a lawsuit alleging the Trump administration is discriminating against immigrants of color by ending temporary protected status for hundreds of thousands of people from El Salvador, Haiti and Honduras who fled natural disasters in their countries.
At a hearing packed with immigrants and their advocates, Joseph C. Dugan, trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Division, told Judge Denise J. Casper that both current and previous administrations have determined that an extension of temporary protected status, or TPS, is appropriate only where the conditions that originally prompted those protections continue to exist, not because conditions in a country are generally fragile.
“We’re not classifying ... on the basis of individuals,” Dugan said. “Rather, we’re arguing whether a country qualifies for TPS.”
Even if the court allows the claims the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice makes in its lawsuit to proceed, he said, the court should dismiss President Trump as a defendant, given that Congress has delegated authority to the secretary of homeland security, not the president, to make TPS decisions.
However, Kevin O’Keefe, one of the lawyers for Centro Presente, an East Boston immigrant advocacy group, said, “It is at least plausible that the termination of TPS” was racially motivated.
Oren Nimni, a civil rights fellow at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, argued that previous administrations “used to look at the conditions on the ground” before deciding whether to extend or terminate protected status for immigrants.
“The purpose of a TPS evaluation is to determine whether nationals can return safely to their country of origin,” Nimni said.
And Trump, as the direct supervisor of the lawsuit’s other defendants — the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Deputy Secretary Elaine Duke — is not immune, O’Keefe said.
Casper took the motion to dismiss the lawsuit under advisement.
About 300,000 Hondurans, Salvadorans and Haitians have been protected from deportation since their countries received TPS in 1999, 2001 and 2010, respectively. But the status is scheduled to expire in 12 to 16 months.
SEEKING PROTECTION: Immigrant rights advocates gather outside John Joseph Moakley U.S. Courthouse yesterday in the Seaport.