A federal judge in San Francisco will hear arguments Friday on a U.S. government bid to go ahead with ending the temporary protected status allowing immigrants from four countries to remain in the United States.
Temporary protected status, or TPS, allows people from countries facing natural disasters, armed conflict or other upheaval to live and work in the United States on a temporary basis.
The case to be heard by U.S. District Judge Edward Chen concerns the TPS granted to immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan.
More than 300,000 people from the four counties have been granted TPS approval and some have been in the United States for up to 21 years. They have more than 200,000 children who are citizens.
Beginning in 2017, the secretaries and acting secretaries of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in the administration of President Donald Trump announced that they were ending the temporary protection for those groups because conditions in their native countries had improved.
The terminations are scheduled to take effect at various times in 2019.
In March, nine immigrants and five citizen children filed a federal civil rights lawsuit challenging the terminations, claiming violations of the U.S. Constitution and federal administrative law.
Friday’s hearing will concern the Justice Department’s request for dismissal of the lawsuit.
Government lawyers have argued in filings that the 1990 law establishing the TPS program gives the executive branch discretion to decide when to end the status and does not allow for review by the courts.
“The TPS statute expressly prohibits judicial second-guessing of the secretaries’ exercise of their discretion,” government lawyers wrote.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs contend the TPS law doesn’t bar broad challenges to the constitutionality of the framework or process underlying TPS decisions.
The lawsuit claims the decisions violate the right of equal protection because they allegedly discriminate on the basis of race and national origin; the right of due process; and the U.S. Administrative Procedure Law, which forbids “arbitrary and capricious” decisions by executive agencies.
The lawsuit cites President Trump’s alleged reference in January to Haiti, El Salvador and certain African nations as “s—hole countries” as an indication of alleged racial bias.
The citizen children have an additional claim, the lawsuit argues, because they have a right to live in the United States and to be raised by their parents, but won’t be able to do both.
“The terminations are the product of an unexplained, radical departure from prior practice, are infected by racial animus, and disregard the constitutional rights of school-aged U.S. citizen children, who must now choose between their parents and their country,” the immigrants’ lawyers wrote.
Other lawsuits challenging the terminations have been filed elsewhere in the United States, but the San Francisco case is the first to claim the constitutional rights of citizen children whose parents have had TPS status.
Government lawyers told the judge in filings that previous case law “without exception rejects (the citizen children) plaintiffs’ asserted rights to live in the United States with an unlawfully present parent.”
They also said there is no evidence of intentional discrimination and the TPS determinations were based on an assessment of conditions in each country.
The defendants in the case are the United States, the Department of Homeland Security, Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, and Acting Deputy Secretary Claire Grady.
If Chen does not dismiss the lawsuit, the next step in the case would be a hearing scheduled for Sept. 27 on the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction blocking the terminations.
-Julia Cheever, Bay City News
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