This very moment, tens of thousands of hard-working immigrant families around the nation— many of whom have resided here for decades and have U.S. citizen children—are feeling something they may not have felt for a long time: hope.
That’s because yesterday, in the Ramos v. Nielsen litigation pending in the Northern District of California, federal district judge Edward Chen issued a preliminary injunction temporarily blocking the Trump administration from terminating the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) of over 300,000 people from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan.
As the vast amount of evidence in the case confirmed, the Administration’s effort to strip these individuals’ TPS status forms part of a larger strategy that, if successfully implemented, would effectively end the use of TPS as we know it. In the last year and a half, DHS has announced that it will terminate the TPS designations of six countries—El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, and Sudan—whose nationals together make up 98% of the TPS population. The first of these terminations—Sudan’s—would have occurred on November 2, 2018 – less than a month from Judge Chen’s order. The sixth—Honduras’s—is scheduled to take effect January 5, 2020.
If unchecked and unremedied, these terminations would produce severe consequences. Many TPS holders, after all, are American in every respect but paperwork. They live, love, worship, learn, and work in communities across the nation, raising children and building businesses. They are part of the fabric of our country. The average Salvadoran TPS recipient, to take one example, has lived in the United States for 21 years. And combined, Salvadoran, Honduran, and Haitian TPS holders have 273,200 U.S. citizen children. Yet though these families are woven inextricably into the American project, the Administration’s policies raise the specter of their mass separation and deportation.
Moreover, pushing Salvadoran, Honduran, and Haitian TPS recipients out of the American workforce would cut nearly 7 billion from Social Security and Medicare contributions over the next ten years, while slashing national GDP by 164 billion during that same period. Dismantling our TPS system, then, would inflict acute harm on the American economy.
But to paraphrase Judge Chen: “not so fast.” In his opinion, he held that the TPS recipients from these countries and their citizen children “indisputably will suffer irreparable harm and great hardship” as a result of the terminations. He also found that the plaintiffs in the case would likely succeed in establishing that DHS violated the Administrative Procedure Act by altering the legal standard by which TPS designations are rendered. Strikingly, Judge Chen went on to raise the prospect that discriminatory animus motivated the TPS terminations, citing “evidence that President Trump harbors an animus against non-white, non-European aliens which influenced his (and thereby the Secretary’s decision) to end the TPS designations.”
Judge Chen’s order is cause for celebration. Individuals and families across the United States are breathing a sigh of relief that, at least for now, they can remain with their families and continue their decades-long enrichment of their communities. Crista Ramos, the lead plaintiff in the case, noted that “I was so happy when I found out about the judge’s decision. Ever since the TPS terminations were announced, I have been wondering how I can live a normal life if I am about to lose my mom. Today, my family and I are celebrating.”
As Ms. Ramos knows, however, this is not the end of the fight—it’s only the beginning. Ultimately, neither the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California, nor any other court, can provide a final resolution.
That responsibility falls to Congress. And this time, Congress must rise to the occasion. In recognition of TPS holders’ deep roots in the United States, the moral imperative of keeping their families together, and their vital contributions to the national economy, the House and Senate should immediately pass legislation providing TPS holders with permanent status in the United States. It’s the right outcome, not just for hard-working immigrant families, but for our entire nation.