A federal appeals court ruled Monday that President Donald Trump can phase out the protection of hundreds of thousands of families who have lived and worked legally in the United States, many of them for decades.
The 2-1 ruling by the California-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals lifted a blockade of Trump’s termination of temporary protection status or TPS for more than 300,000 people. The administration could deport people from Sudan, Nicaragua and Haiti as soon as March and from El Salvador by November 2021.
Immigrants from El Salvador make up the largest group of TPS recipients, estimated at 263,000, but a bilateral agreement gives Salvadorans an extra year to stay in the United States if the courts ultimately uphold Trump̵
“Ending the protection of … TPS families, including the more than 130,000 people who have risked their lives as important workers in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, would be very cruel; especially in these difficult times,” said Paul Andre. Mondesir, chief organizer of the National TPS Alliance, said in a statement.
The decision of the Court of Appeal means that these immigrants must find other ways to remain in the United States legally or travel after a settlement period of at least six months, longer in the case of El Salvador. However, the case is likely to be appealed to the Supreme Court, which could delay the outcome.
The decision comes between campaign fluctuations by Trump and Democrat Joe Biden through Florida, a critical battlefield state and a must-win for Trump to win the White House. Biden is on his way to central Florida on Tuesday, where he hopes to garner support among Latino voters.
The Biden campaign has called the TPS decisions “politically motivated”, and it has said that Biden will protect entrants from being returned to insecure countries.
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A recent poll by Florida Latinos showed that Biden led among Latin American voters, 53 percent to Trumps 37 percent. Although Trump leads among Cuban Americans, Biden leads among Puerto Ricans, the poll shows. When grouped together, all other Latino groups in the state, including people of Central American descent, favor Biden.
People with temporary protection status are generally in the country when disaster or political upheaval hits their home countries, such as the catastrophic earthquake that wiped out large parts of Haiti in 2010 or Hurricane Mitch, which hit Central America as the second deadliest Atlantic hurricane in 1998.
The Trump administration has claimed that most countries in the program have recovered from the related disasters or conflicts, and that status has been renewed for years beyond its needs.
The status must be renewed at regular intervals by the Home Secretary, who may extend it at six to 18 month intervals. People with TPS do not have roads to legal residence, a precursor to citizenship without leaving the country.
‘Burning Trump’s war on immigrants’
“This disappointing court ruling promotes Trump’s war on immigrants. Since the beginning of his presidency, Trump has worked tirelessly to remove the legal status of hundreds of thousands of people with temporary protection status,” said Frank Sharry, CEO of America’s Voice, a nonprofit immigration organization.
Judge Consuelo Callahan, appointed by former Republican President George W. Bush, wrote in a 54-page statement that the Trump administration’s decisions to phase out the protection could not be reviewed and therefore should not have been blocked.
Callahan also rejected a claim by plaintiffs that Trump’s earlier criticism of non-white, non-European immigrants influenced TPS decisions.
“While we do not tolerate the offensive and degrading nature of the President’s remarks, we find it instructive that these statements arose primarily in contexts removed from and unrelated to TPS policies or decisions,” she wrote.
The termination of TPS for Haitians is also the subject of separate lawsuits in the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York.
Trump has made his hard-line immigration stance a hallmark of his presidency and his re-election campaign.
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