Citing Racial Bias, Judge Blocks Trump Administration from Terminating TPS

By Alfonso Serrano Oct 09, 2018

A federal judge in San Francisco temporarily blocked the Trump administration’s efforts to terminate deportation protections for many beneficiaries of Temporary Protected Status (TPS). It’s a decision that was roundly celebrated by the caravan of TPS holders who set off on a protest walk from Los Angeles in August and arrived in New York over the weekend.

Around 50 TPS holders launched the cross-country caravan 12 weeks ago to protest Trump administration decisions in 2017 and early this year to terminate deportation protections for an estimated 400,000 TPS holders who were given 18 months to leave the United States or find another form of legal residency status.

But the October 3 preliminary injunction from United States District Judge Edward M. Chen says that the Trump administration lacked the justification to end TPS for 300,000 immigrants from El Salvador, Sudan, Nicaragua and Haiti who were granted deportation protection after fleeing violence and natural disasters in their countries. TPS holders from countries covered by other lawsuits were not included in this injunction.

In his decision, Chen pointed to racial bias as a possible factor in the Trump administration’s decision to terminate TPS.

"Plaintiffs have provided sufficient evidence to raise serious questions as to whether a discriminatory purpose was a motivating factor in the decisions to terminate the TPS designations," he wrote.

He agreed with the plaintiffs that racial discrimination was evident in comments made by President Donald Trump during the TPS decision-making process. Those comments include Trump remarks that characterized Mexican immigrants as "drug dealers" and "rapists," and a statement made by Trump in June 2017 that "15,000 recent immigrants from Haiti ‘all have AIDS’ and that 40,000 Nigerians, once seeing the United States, would ‘never go back to their huts‘ in Africa."

Shortly after Chen’s decision, Department of Justice spokesperson Devin O’Malley told The Washington Post that the Trump administration would “continue to fight for the integrity of our immigration laws and our national security.”

Over the weekend, members of the caravan, organized by the National TPS Alliance, cautiously celebrated judge Chen’s decision.

"At least it buys us time for the residency campaign that the National TPS Alliance has," Ninaj Raoul, of Haitian Women for Haitian Refugees, told WNYC. "What we’re really going for is permanent residency."

Added Pabitra Khati Benjamin, executive director of Adhikaar, a Nepali-American group: "This is like a huge breath of air for many TPS holders from these countries. It gives us a little space to hold back, try to figure out how we’re going to strategize and move forward."