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The appeals court allows the Trump administration to end humanitarian protections for 300,000 immigrants

A divided federal appeals court allowed the Trump administration on Monday to move forward with plans to suspend several humanitarian programs that protect hundreds of thousands of immigrants to the United States from deportation.

A jury of three judges for the 9th Circuit Court Appeals said they could not guess the Trump administration’s efforts to end temporary protection status (TPS) for some 300,000 immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan. Two Republican-appointed panel judges ruled that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s decisions to shut down TPS programs were not reviewable, setting aside a lower court order that had prevented officials from ending these protections.

Through judgment 2-1

, the court also rejected the argument that decisions to end TPS programs violated the equal protection clause of the United States Constitution due to President Trump’s disparaging comments about immigrants from non Europeans, mostly non-whites. The judges acknowledged Trump’s “offensive” comments but found no direct link between them and the moves to eliminate TPS protections.

“While we do not condone the offensive and disparaging nature of the President’s remarks, we find it instructive that these statements have mostly occurred in repressed contexts unrelated to TPS policy or decisions,” said US Circuit Judge Consuelo Callahan. nominated by George W. Bush, wrote in the opinion of the majority.

In his dissent, US circuit judge Morgan Christen, appointed by President Obama, said the TPS resolutions were revocable and violated federal administrative law. Christen also highlighted the “monumental” consequences of the majority ruling, which he called “deeply flawed”.

“The importance of the interests at stake makes the argument in favor of the review even more compelling, because the lives of 300,000 non-citizens and 200,000 US citizen children will be forever changed by these TPS terminations,” Christen wrote.

Given an agreement between lawyers from the Department of Justice and groups contesting the end of humanitarian immigration programs, Monday’s ruling also allows the administration to effectively finalize its decisions to revoke TPS designations for Nepal and Honduras.

Established by Congress in the early 1990s, TPS programs are designed to avoid deporting immigrants to countries of origin plagued by armed conflict, recovering from natural disasters, dealing with an epidemic or who otherwise cannot guarantee the safe return of their citizens.

Stripping current TPS recipients of their status would make them vulnerable to deportation, but their fate will likely depend on the outcome of the November presidential election, as the Trump administration has pledged to give immigrants enrolled in the programs 120 days later a favorable court order for the end. their protections.

Under a deal the Trump administration made last fall with El Salvador’s center-right government, the United States has decided to give more than 250,000 Salvadoran immigrants with TPS an extra year to live and work in the country. country after the conclusion of the dispute. That compromise came weeks after the Salvadoran government signed an agreement that allows the United States to redirect non-Salvadoran asylum seekers from the southern border to El Salvador.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has vowed to protect TPS holders from deportation to “unsafe” countries and to expand protections to Venezuelans who have fled the country’s economic collapse.

Ahilan Arulanantham, the lead lawyer who disputed the end of humanitarian programs, said Monday’s ruling meant non-Salvadoran TPS recipients could lose their status as soon as March 5, 2021. TPS protections for Salvadoran immigrants could expire in November 2021, he added.

Arulanantham, who is also the American Civil Liberties Union’s legal counsel for Southern California, said ending the TPS programs at the heart of the case would present tens of thousands of US citizen children with a “horrible choice.”

“It means that those families with American teenagers and children in elementary, high and middle schools – like Crista Ramos, our main plaintiff in the case – would be faced with the choice of separating from their parents and having to move in with an uncle or aunt,” or go to countries like El Salvador, Haiti or Sudan, which they have never known, “Arulanantham said.

Arulanantham said his group plans to file a request for the 9th Circuit to reconsider Monday’s order through an “en banc” vote by 11 judges. If that request is denied, the final appeal for TPS recipients would be an appeal to the United States Supreme Court.

A Justice Department spokesman praised Monday’s ruling, denouncing arguments that racial animus played a role in TPS terminations as “baseless allegations.”

“For about two years, the District Court injunction prevented the Department of Homeland Security from taking action that Congress has entrusted solely to the discretion of the Secretary of Homeland Security – action which is legally barred from judicial review,” added the spokesman.

Clare Hymes contributed to this report.

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