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Court: Government Can End Protections For Some 300,000 Immigrants


Some 300,000 immigrants living under protected status here in the U.S. could be forced to leave after a federal appeals court ruling yesterday. NPR's John Burnett has more.

JOHN BURNETT, BYLINE: Salvadorans, Nicaraguans and Haitians came to the United States after devastating earthquakes. Sudanese fled civil conflict and famine in their nation. They were all granted Temporary Protected Status, TPS, over the past two decades, yet the Trump administration began to terminate their programs one by one. The immigrants' lawyers argued they should be allowed to stay here in their homes, at their jobs, with their families because the government's cancellation of TPS was illegal. Moreover, the lawyers said the decision was motivated, quote, "by Trump's racial animus against nonwhite and non-European immigrants." But 2 out of 3 judges weren't buying it. They threw out a lower court ruling, which now clears the way for the deportations to begin next year. The lawyer for the immigrant plaintiffs is Ahilan Arulanantham with the ACLU of Southern California.

AHILAN ARULANANTHAM: Do we really think it's fair to force the deportation of people who have lived here lawfully for 20 years? Do we really think it's fair to tell American children who have grown up their whole lives here that now they have to lose their parents because this is the way that the Trump administration wants it?

BURNETT: Monday's decision also influences a parallel, separate lawsuit that affects another 100,000 TPS beneficiaries from Nepal and Honduras who are in the U.S. So the total affected class is closer to 400,000 individuals. But immigration hawks say rules are rules. When Congress created TPS 30 years ago, it was never intended to be a path to citizenship.

DAN STEIN: And what this decision does is put the temporary, the T, back in Temporary Protected Status.

BURNETT: Dan Stein is president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which strongly backs Trump's immigration agenda.

STEIN: Extraordinarily important that the American people, who can give appropriate and well-deserved humanitarian relief, can be confident that their generosity will not be taken advantage of over time.

BURNETT: The immigrants here under TPS have not exhausted their federal appeals. Also they can ask Congress to extend the programs, or they can hope for a new occupant in the White House. Late Monday, the Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, said his administration would review and consider overturning every TPS decision made by President Trump. John Burnett, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF PENSEES' "LUNAMOTH") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As NPR's Southwest correspondent based in Austin, Texas, John Burnett covers immigration, border affairs, Texas news and other national assignments. In 2018, 2019 and again in 2020, he won national Edward R. Murrow Awards from the Radio-Television News Directors Association for continuing coverage of the immigration beat. In 2020, Burnett along with other NPR journalists, were finalists for a duPont-Columbia Award for their coverage of the Trump Administration's Remain in Mexico program. In December 2018, Burnett was invited to participate in a workshop on Refugees, Immigration and Border Security in Western Europe, sponsored by the RIAS Berlin Commission.