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TPS lawsuit settlement talks fail, opening door to evictions

After more than a year of negotiations, settlement talks between the Biden administration and plaintiffs in a lawsuit over temporary protected status broke down on Tuesday, leaving more than 250,000 people at risk of deportation.

The litigation follows concerted actions by the Trump administration to end TPS for citizens of several countries – El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Haiti, Sudan and Nepal – as part of its efforts to end the prolonged use of protections. TPS is a form of humanitarian aid given to countries devastated by natural disasters or war and allows recipients to work legally while in the United States. Created in 1990, the program currently applies to people from 15 countries.

The plaintiffs won temporary relief in 2018 when a federal district judge in San Francisco granted an injunction to block the termination of the protections. But in 2020, a three-judge panel of the San Francisco 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the order in a 2-1 decision. This did not take effect because the immigrants’ lawyers requested a full court hearing, which remains pending.

The Biden administration redesignated Temporary Protected Status for Haiti and Sudan, but did not for the other four countries. These beneficiaries could lose their protections as soon as the end of this year, while the Biden administration goes to court to defend the decisions of the previous administration.

As a presidential candidate, however, Joe Biden called President Trump’s decision to roll back TPS a “recipe for disaster”, promising to protect recipients from being sent back to unsafe countries. The Departments of Homeland Security and Justice did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Emi MacLean, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, said a settlement would have provided security for TPS holders who have felt vulnerable over the past four years of litigation.

“There is a reason why people lose faith in the [Biden] administration,” she said. “These actions leave us very concerned about whether they recognize the urgency of this issue and the fact that many lives are at stake due to their unwillingness to act.”

A Department of Homeland Security spokesperson declined to comment on ongoing litigation, but said “current TPS holders from El Salvador, Nepal, Nicaragua and Honduras will continue to be protected over the coming months”.

TPS holders and their U.S. citizen children filed a class action lawsuit in 2018, alleging government officials had a political agenda in deciding to end protections for those countries and were motivated by racism. Trump administration officials countered by saying the program was never intended to provide a long-term reprieve.

Complainant Elsy Flores Ayala said she was frustrated that a settlement could not be negotiated. Flores Ayala, 43, her husband and their 24-year-old daughter have had TPS since 2001, a year after arriving in the United States from El Salvador.

El Salvador was first designated for TPS in March 2001 after two earthquakes devastated the country, killing more than 1,000 people and displacing more than a million people. Since then, the US government has cited subsequent natural disasters and gang-related insecurity in redesignations. Nearly 200,000 Salvadorans have TPS, many of them in California.

Flores Ayala said she and her family, who live in Washington, depend on TPS benefits — she works in child care, her husband looks after building maintenance and her daughter is at home. ‘university. She also worries about what might happen if they lose the protections against deportation. Her two youngest children, aged 17 and 21, were born in the United States and she fears being separated from them.

“The concern is important because we don’t know what will happen to us,” she said.

In the pointed 2018 ruling, U.S. District Judge Edward Chen blocked the layoffs, saying recipients risked being uprooted from their homes, jobs and communities.

“They risk being deported to countries with which their children and family members may have little or no connection and which may not be safe,” he wrote. “Those with children who are American citizens will face the dilemma of whether to bring their children with them, to give up their children’s lives in the United States (for many, the only lives they know) or to be separated from their children.”

The judge, appointed by President Obama, also cited Trump’s reported comments about Haitian and African immigrants from “shitty countries,” noting “circumstantial evidence that race is a motivating factor.”

Through the discovery process, immigrant attorneys received internal communications from the Department of Homeland Security at the time TPS termination decisions were made.

In one instance, Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke wrote in a personal note in March 2018 that “the TPS program is due to end soon for these countries. … This conclusion is the result of an American first view of the TPS decision.

Career diplomats and other experts warned at the time that the decisions would have significant humanitarian and political repercussions, while a Homeland Security official suggested they comb through conditions in those countries at the time. looking for “positive gems” to substantiate their arguments that recipients no longer needed legal services. protections.

California Daily Newspapers

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