Despite Trump’s Best Efforts, Hundreds of Thousands of Immigrants Earn Reprieve From Deportation

Last week, Jeff Sessions attacked a court ruling that gave a temporary reprieve to hundreds of thousands of immigrants facing imminent deportation after years of living lawfully in this country. 

"Federal district court judges are not empowered to fashion immigration policy," Sessions said. "The Legislative and Executive branches — of federal and state government — are the constitutionally authorized branches to do these things."

Complain as he might, the judiciary indeed has a say, because the executive branch has to follow the law and, most important, the Constitution. As the court found, the administration violated both federal law and the Constitution’s protection against race discrimination when it attempted to terminate the lawful immigration status of these individuals. As a result of the ruling, more than 300,000 immigrants will be able to stay in this country for at least another year — even as the government appeals the decision. 

Sessions was responding to a ruling that came earlier in the month concerning the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program. TPS provides legal status to residents of certain countries that the U.S. government has deemed too unsafe for return. 

The Trump administration started stripping protected status from TPS holders, one by one and country by country, shortly after the inauguration. It has since ordered the end of TPS for 98 percent of the people who were protected under the program on Election Day in 2016.

Even for those who do not follow immigration law closely, the TPS program may ring a bell, because it prompted one of President Trump’s more infamous expletives. In January, during a conversation about the TPS program the president was having with some Republican senators, he rejected an immigration proposal that would have granted many TPS holders lawful permanent residence. He asked why we need to allow "people from shithole countries" to stay here and said we should instead be trying to encourage more people from Norway to come. Since the beginning of the Trump administration, DHS has announced the end of TPS for recipients from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, Sudan, Honduras, and Nepal.

A few months later, we joined with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network and the law firm Sidley Austin LLP to challenge the administration’s termination decisions for the four countries whose TPS status was terminated at that time — El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan. We argued that in its moves to terminate the program, the Trump administration had acted out of racial animus against non-white, non-European immigrants, and also that it had adopted an extremely narrow interpretation of the TPS statute without adequate justification, in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act.

As we learned from documents we obtained in our lawsuit, Trump administration officials (some of whom came from the far-right anti-immigrant group Federation for American Immigration Reform) took jobs in DHS and used their positions to push for the termination of TPS, even where career professionals within the agency believed that the law required it to continue. The documents show that Trump administration officials believed that if they ended TPS, Congress would face tremendous pressure to grant permanent legal status to those now at risk. In turn, the administration could leverage the manufactured crisis in negotiations over other harsh anti-immigrant measures it wanted to pass. 

In short, the Trump administration used hundreds of thousands of people as political pawns. 

In October, the court blocked the administration from ending the program, granting at least temporary reprieve to TPS holders from those four countries. The government has appealed, but meanwhile, it has also announced a plan to comply with that order. The plan ensures that all TPS holders will continue to have status for at least one year. Even if the government wins on appeal, it has agreed to allow people to continue holding TPS status for at least six more months after the case ends. 

In his statement criticizing our lawsuit, the attorney general suggested that ending TPS was needed to secure the border. This is absurd. There is no evidence anywhere that TPS holders present a threat to the border or to national security. In fact, the only relevant evidence showed the opposite: that ending the lawful status of around 300,000 people who lived here lawfully, with work authorization, for nearly 20 years, will not make us safer. Even the Southern Command of the U.S. military recommended against ending TPS for these countries before these decisions were made out of concern for the political instability that could arise from the mass deportation of several hundred thousand people who had lived here for decades. A number of state governments were also very concerned about the impact of the administration’s decisions. They filed a brief in support of the TPS holders, noting they have paid billions in taxes and contribute a great deal to both the economic and social life of the country. 

Perhaps what's most concerning is the fate of the American-born children of TPS holders. They face a particularly brutal choice, and just discussing it with our teenage clients is painful: They can stay here in their country, or they can continue to live with their parents, but they cannot do both. 

The children of immigrants facing deportation have had to make such choices for many years under our harsh immigration laws. But we are not aware of any previous time in our nation's history where so many people who had lived lawfully in this country for many years have lost their lawful status without having violated any law. 

Our lawsuit has secured valuable time for TPS holders and their families, but the only truly just solution is for Congress to grant them lawful permanent residence. In the meantime, we are grateful for the temporary relief.

View comments (31)
Read the Terms of Use

Anonymous

Thanks for your whataboutism, duly noted. Believing these things makes you susceptible to being radicalized by the right-wing fear mongers -- called deplorables for short.

Anonymous

I have my own mind and I speaking freely I am not like you or any other people. I was taught what is right and wrong by my parents. If I don’t like what I see or hear I will tell you or anyone else. We have both parties in the government that are like little kids on the playgrounds fighting all the time and not working together for the betterment of America and American citizens.

Dr. Timothy Leary

First we had a mulatto in the white house, now we have a dillweed. I just don't see how this is making America great again.

Anonymous

Dr. Leary, you are in between and could not do the job of either! Please sit down, grab a book and educate your small mind... or better yet -we can send all illegals to your home and you can support them!

Dwegmann

I don't understand you people , We have got to make a stand on this border invasion, you can't call it anything else but an invasion. we cannot allow this to happen, i have not problem with people coming in an the correct way. Becoming a American citizen the correct way. The way my mother came from Canada, she came after getting married to my father shortly after the end of WWII. She was a Canadian Air-cor officer my father was a US Navy CP. She got Naturalized five years later, she was a Corporate Secatary from the out set, a productive part of the work force from the get go, and continued being one until her retirement at age 67. I willcome the outcast the polictal pressured individual, but not he person that is comeing to be a increasing drain on our system. I continue to work at age 70, and it bothers me how the Liberial democratic side of our goverment keeps wanting to just inflate our debt being the pass thru idenity that thinks they can continue putting more on the working class in the form of increasing our taxes. They (Libs, Demo's,Clinton, Obama, Soros bunch etc. aren't doing it because they want to help them with a better life, they don't really care , it's all about the vote, it's about keeping a low income class that can do no better that they can supplement monetarily, with our taxes dollars,and where they can get control of a segment of society and control them) ENOUGH SAID, " NO ITS'S NOT , TIME TO LOCK AND LOAD AT THE BOARDER, NO BRASS, BUT HARD RUBBER BULLETS, STOP THIS INVASION IF THEY DECIDE TO COME ACROSS. 2ND THOUGHT," WHEN ALL THIS IS GOING ON, THE DRUG CARTELS LOVE IT, THEY ARE SLIPPING MILLIONS OF TONS OF DRUGS IN ELSE WHERE, BEING WE ARE LOOKING THE OTHER WAY......SHAME ON YOU DEMO'S, LIBS, ETC. IN WASHINGTON........

AnonymouS

You know this is all a made-up crisis, just causing the President's budget to blow-up into greater deficits. Taking the money from the military's budget for 5K -15K troops, still hits the administration's federal deficit too. We are going to see how much it costs to support psy-ops for a mid-term election, for the illusions of a immigration crisis also presented as an invasion -- where fear and bullying is used in some kind of Conservative crusade.

Anonymous

I love your comment. If we can’t build a wall so we have to tear down every wall and fence in America that included prison so Americans criminals can be free and we open our front and back door to every illegal aliens so they can take what ever they need. Every American criminal needs to be set free to start over is that what the democratic and liberals wants for illegal aliens and what about the American criminals don’t they deserve a chance for freedom. Would that be a crazy idea? People need to think about things but their hate for trump is the issue.

Anonymous

What part of "temporary" in TPS dont you understand? ACLU is no longer non-partisan and has facilitated confusion and chaos around failed immigration policies in this country. You make it worse and obstruct efforts to fix the system. We cannot educate, medicate, & incarcerate all those illegals fleeing economic depressed countries. How about putting your energies and resources toward AMERICANS suffering from homelessness, poverty, and violence?

U.S. Citizen

TPS and/or unlawful DACA recipients have no right to live in the US. The administration can determine its own polices. And immigration laws are far from harsh. Far left judges will be corrected on appeal.

Anonymous

ooops, here are the haters, white supremacy and kkk alike. You guys work. They are good people in both sides.

Pages

Stay Informed