A federal appeals court ruled on Sept. 14 that the Trump administration can phase out humanitarian protections for hundreds of thousands of immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan, many of whom have lived and worked legally in the United States for decades.
In a 2-1 decision, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a 2018 lower court ruling that prevented the federal government from terminating Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for immigrants from the four countries.
The TPS program is a form of humanitarian relief that has, since 1990, granted temporary legal status and work authorization to non-immigrant aliens in the United States who are from countries affected by natural disasters, conflict, or other extreme adversity. It was created by Congress and implemented by the Department of Homeland Security.
Critics argue the TPS benefit is aimed at helping immigrants residing in the United States who face grave harm in their home country and do not pose a public or national safety risk because they are fully vetted.
The administration has argued that the emergency conditions that initially led to people being invited into the United States from the specified countries occurred a long time ago, and that they no longer require a safe haven.
Some 400,000 people could now be required to leave the country after a wind-down period at least until early March, unless they are able to find another way to legally remain in the United States, the appeals court ruled. People from El Salvador, meanwhile, will have their protections maintained until at least November 2021.
The decision applies to individuals who have young children who are American citizens. The affected immigrants are estimated to be parents to at least 250,000 U.S.-born children.
Monday’s ruling also applies to people from Honduras and Nepal, who separately filed a lawsuit that was suspended pending the results of the broader case.
“The secretary’s discretion to make TPS determinations, while not without check, is undoubtedly broad and unique in nature,” said Judge Consuelo Callahan who wrote the decision for the court. “The decision to designate any foreign country for TPS begins and ends with the secretary, so long as certain limited statutory criteria are met.”
The Justice Department told The Epoch Times in a statement Monday that it was pleased with the decision.
“For approximately 2 years, the district court’s injunction prevented the Department of Homeland Security from taking action that Congress has vested solely within the discretion of the secretary of Homeland Security—action that is statutorily precluded from judicial review,” a department spokesperson said.
“We applaud the Ninth Circuit’s recognition of the plain language of the Immigration and Nationality Act and its rejection of the baseless accusations of animus behind the actions taken by the Department of Homeland Security.”
Ahilan Arulanantham, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, which represented plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said on Monday that the union plans to seek another “en banc” review of the matter by 11 of the appeals court’s judges.
During a call with reporters, Arulanantham called the decision “deeply flawed” and said the case eventually could be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, depending on the outcome of the request for a broader appeals court review.
The termination of TPS for Haitians is also subject to separate litigation in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York. The appeals court heard arguments in that case in June, but has not yet ruled.
Janita Kan and Reuters contributed to this report.