A federal appeals court ruled in favor of the Trump administration on Monday with a decision that could end legal status for over 400,000 immigrants living in the United States.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals lifted a lower court's hold on the decision to dissolve Temporary Protected Status for immigrants from Sudan, Haiti, El Salvador and Nicaragua.
TPS is a special humanitarian exemption that gives immigrants the right to stay in the U.S. temporarily without a path to citizenship after a catastrophic event -- like the 2010 Haiti earthquake or a series of earthquakes in El Salvador in 2001.
While these programs have been continually renewed for decades in certain cases, the Trump administration has systematically dismantled them since 2017, citing their temporary nature. Those decisions have been challenged in court, as they force these immigrants, many of whom have children who are U.S. citizens, to choose between staying here illegally and facing deportation or returning to their country of origin.
There are currently a total of 411,326 TPS holders from 10 different countries, according to a Congressional Research Service report, with nearly a quarter-million of of them from El Salvador.
Today's court decision would allow protections to end for some as early as March, while Salvadorans in the program would not see their legal status ended until November 2021 at the earliest, according to one of the lawyers who challenged the Trump administration. Monday's decision could also impact a separate case that looks at TPS for Haitian nationals.
The decision Monday is expected to face further legal challenges in the lower courts.
"This is devastating news not just for families who are losing their protected status, but also for their communities," said Ali Noorani, who leads the National Immigration Forum advocacy group. "TPS recipients have deep economic and social roots in communities across the nation. And, as the U.S. responds to the COVID-19 pandemic, TPS recipients are standing shoulder to shoulder with Americans and doing essential work."
Another immigrant assistance network described it as "a dark day" for TPS recipients and their families, including the estimated 250,000 U.S. citizen children of TPS holders.
"No family should be faced with the choice of either splitting up or moving their entire family, including U.S. citizen children, to a country where they face danger," said Anna Gallagher, executive director of CLINIC, which provides immigration legal services.