Trump administration efforts to end the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) of many US immigrants has been met with a lawsuit lodged by six residents in Washington D.C. TPS was created by Congress and included in the US Immigration Act 1990 to provide temporary immigration status for those from countries affected by conflict or environmental disaster.
The lawsuit seeks to prevent a policy change that would make it harder for some immigrants to clear old deportation orders. According to a number of immigrant advocacy groups, the Trump administration’s bid to end the TPS program would leave thousands vulnerable to deportation from the US.
Many with TPS status under US immigration rules want to become lawful permanent residents, which would enable them to apply for US citizenship. However, most immigrants with TPS status entered the country illegally and have had deportation orders issued against them in the past.
Harder to get lawful permanent residence
The Trump administration’s efforts to end the TPS program would make it harder for those with the status to secure lawful permanent residence – often referred to as a green card – if it is scrapped. Now a lawsuit has been filed against the acting director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Ken Cuccinelli, with a view to blocking the Trump administration from enacting what has been described as an ‘arbitrary and capricious’ policy change.
The lawsuit comes after a previous one was filed in August opposing the policy change, which claimed that it was ‘unlawfully issued without notice or comment.’
Attorneys representing the claimants filing the lawsuit said that Cuccinelli, who has previously served as Virginia’s attorney general, did not have the authority to order the policy change because his appointment as acting chief of USCIS was illegal.
Trump wants to end TPS program altogether
Immigrant advocacy groups argue that the Trump administration’s proposed policy change is especially harmful because it seeks to end the TPS program entirely. In September, a federal judge ruled that the Trump administration could end the program for El Salvador, Nicaragua and Sudan.
The Washington D.C. region is currently home to approximately 211,000 Salvadorans, representing the second-largest community after Los Angeles. Unless the federal court ruling is appealed, Salvadorans face losing TPS by November 2021.
Anti-immigrant advocates have backed efforts to scrap the TPS program saying: ‘Those that benefit from it cannot expect to remain in the US forever.’
Director of litigation at the Immigration Reform Law Institute, Christopher Hajec, said: “TPS holders are not immigrants. As desirable as some of them might be as immigrants, that is not the legal category they are in. Indeed, they owe their presence here to the temporary nature of the program they were admitted under.”
“Had Congress known that their stays would be as protracted as they have become, it never would have created TPS,” Hajec said.
Hearing date set
A hearing date of October 30 has been set concerning the lawsuit by a judge in the US District Court for the District of Columbia. While a hearing date has been set, attorneys say that it’s not a guarantee of anything.
One attorney said: “The hearing could lead to a sympathetic hearing from the judge, after all courts in the past have struck down policies like this that have not been raised through the proper channels. On the other hand the court could announce it was not authorized to review federal US immigration policy.”