The Department of Homeland Security said Thursday it will comply with a federal court order by automatically extending to January 2020 the temporary protected status of more than 250,000 immigrants the Trump administration left facing possible deportation.
The renewals will cover TPS beneficiaries from four nations – El Salvador, Haiti, Sudan and Nicaragua – whose provisional residency status was set to lapse after the Trump administration determined they no longer merited the protections.
Plaintiffs in Ramos v. Nielsen won a preliminary injunction in the Northern District of California in October when they sued DHS for alleged discrimination and violations of rulemaking procedures.
The injunction provided a reprieve to roughly 200,000 Salvadorans, 50,000 Haitians, 2,500 Nicaraguans and 1,000 Sudanese with the TPS designation. Before Thursday, DHS had not indicated how it would comply with the court order.
A separate federal lawsuit is seeking to win a similar extension or protections for approximately 55,000 Hondurans and 9,000 Nepalese.
TPS was established by Congress in 1990 to prevent the deportation of immigrants to countries in the throes of natural disasters, armed conflict or other calamities. During the past three decades, nearly 500,000 immigrants have benefited from the program, including large numbers of Salvadorans and Hondurans who were allowed to renew their permits on an 18-month basis for nearly two decades.
By law, the TPS designation can be extended if the dangerous conditions that created it have not improved, or if the nation is temporarily incapable of absorbing returnees.
The Trump administration argued that earthquakes or hurricanes that happened years ago should not continue to be the basis for an irregular form of U.S. residency. They also noted that the United States regularly sends back deportees to nations on the TPS list.
The attempts to end the TPS programs have been some of the most consequential immigration measures the Trump administration has taken, along with the effort to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
The American Civil Liberties Union and several other plaintiffs filed a class-action lawsuit last year, citing emails that showed sharp disagreements between Trump political appointees and senior U.S. diplomats who warned that the countries on the TPS list were in no condition to receive a large influx of deportees.
U.S. District Judge Edward Chen’s October ruling found plaintiffs “raised serious questions whether the action taken” by DHS officials “was influenced by the White House and based on animus against nonwhite, non-European immigrants in violation of Equal Protection guaranteed by the Constitution.”
Chen said those concerns were “at least serious enough to preserve the status quo.”
The DHS notice left open an option to rescind the extension if the Trump administration prevails on appeal. “In the event the preliminary injunction is reversed and that reversal becomes final, DHS will allow for an orderly transition period,” the notice in the Federal Registrar reads.