A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has ruled that the Trump administration can end a program aimed at giving humanitarian aid to refugees.
At issue were the efforts by the administration to end the Temporary Protected Status program for beneficiaries from countries including Sudan, Nicaragua, Haiti, and El Salvador.
Administered by the Department of Homeland Security, the program gives temporary benefits to refugees from countries that have experienced major disasters, both natural and manmade.
In a 2-1 decision filed Monday, the appeals court panel vacated a preliminary injunction issued by a lower court, with Circuit Judge Consuelo M. Callahan authoring the court opinion.
The Callahan opinion rejected the claims of plaintiffs who argued that the decision to end their TPS protections was unlawful given the potential negative impact it would have on them.
“The TPS statute also does not dictate any substantive guidelines or restrictions on the manner by which the Secretary may reach her TPS determinations, other than setting forth the three possible findings that the Secretary must make before designating a country for TPS,” wrote Callahan.
“Nothing in the language of the TPS statute requires the Secretary to consider intervening events prior to terminating TPS, or to explain her failure to do so.”
In the dissenting opinion, Circuit Judge Morgan Christen argued that the plaintiffs’ complaint had merit, as the lower court provided “a long list of evidence of racial animus” from the administration.
One example cited was a January 2018 Oval Office meeting in which President Donald Trump called some of the nations involved in the TPS program “s***hole countries.”
“… we cannot sweep aside the words that were actually used, and it would be worse for us to deny their meaning. Some of the statements expressly referred to people, not to places. The President’s statements require no deciphering,” argued Christen.
“The [district] court recognized that the government could not in good faith argue that it would suffer any concrete harm if TPS holders are allowed to remain in the United States pending resolution of this litigation because they have been lawfully present in the United States for many years.”
Crista Ramos, lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, denounced the appeals court panel decision, saying in a statement that the “government has failed me and the other 250,000 US citizen children of TPS holders.”
“If this decision stands, it means Trump’s termination of TPS will move ahead and TPS holders will only have until January 2021 to legally live and work in this country,” stated Ramos.
“We need our senators to act now and pass the Dream & Promise Act to grant TPS holders a permanent residency before another wave of family separations occurs. Despite the court’s decision, our fight must continue.”
In 2017 and 2018, the Trump administration moved to terminate the TPS program for people who came to the country from Sudan, Nicaragua, Haiti, and El Salvador.
Supporters of the decisions to drop the four countries from the program argued that the conditions used to justify their addition to TPS have considerably changed.
For example, while Haiti was added to TPS due to the 2010 earthquake, the Department of Homeland Security concluded that conditions there had since sufficiently improved.
“Since the 2010 earthquake, the number of displaced people in Haiti has decreased by 97 percent,” stated DHS in 2017. “Haiti is able to safely receive traditional levels of returned citizens.”