Last Monday, the Trump administration allowed the DACA program to expire, although the program still exists for the time being due to federal court decisions in New York and California in favor of states suing to keep the program from ending. Now, immigrants and their children who had been granted temporary protected status — under a different program that provides residency to people whose countries had been ravaged by natural disasters, disease, or war — have begun their own legal battle against the Trump administration.
The AP reported that on Monday, that immigrants and five children from four different countries (Haiti, Sudan, El Salvador, and Nicaragua) filed a federal lawsuit in San Francisco today, suing the Trump administration for ending their protected status. The plaintiffs argue that decision to revoke their statuses is based in racism and leaves American-born children with an “impossible choice” — move with their families to places they don’t know or stay in the country of their birth.
In recent months, the government has ended the temporary protected statuses for residents from all four countries. Sudanese residents will have to leave the country by this November or else face deportation, as will Nicaraguans by January 2019, Haitians by July 2019, and El Salvadorans by September 2019.
In January, Trump infamously asked “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” in reference to immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti, and African countries. The lawsuit, which names the Department of Homeland Security as a defendant, cites that statement as evidence the decisions have been motivated by racism.
“They did it because of xenophobia, and we need to make sure that we say it loudly so that everyone knows,” Martha Arevalo, the executive director of the immigrant advocacy group Central American Resource Center, told the AP.
The AP reports:
More than 200,000 immigrants could face deportation because of the change in policy, and they have more than 200,000 American children who risk being uprooted from their communities and schools, according to plaintiffs in the case filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and other immigrant advocates.
The children face the “impossible choice” of leaving their country with their parents or staying without them, according to the suit.
“These American children should not have to choose between their country and their family,” Ahilan Arulanantham, advocacy and legal director of the ACLU of Southern California, said in a statement.
Aside from the four countries represented in the lawsuit, nations whose residents are currently granted temporary protected status include Honduras, Liberia, Nepal, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.
According to the AP, plaintiff Cristina Morales is an immigrant from El Salvador who came the U.S. in 1993 at the age of 12 and was granted temporary protected status in 2001. She now has two children who were born in the U.S.
“I don’t want the government to split my family and to lose my home, my friends and the opportunity for a good education,” said her daughter, 14-year old Crista Ramos.