While its appeal is pending, the US government says it will comply with a California federal judge’s decision that temporarily blocked the administration’s plans to end deportation protections for hundreds of thousands of immigrants.
In court documents filed late Tuesday, the government outlined how officials plan to comply with US District Judge Edward Chen’s preliminary injunction, which earlier this month blocked plans to end temporary protected status, or TPS, for immigrants from Sudan, El Salvador, Haiti and Nicaragua.
US Citizenship and Immigration Services will automatically extend employment authorization and the validity of immigration documents for TPS recipients from Sudan and Nicaragua through April 2, 2019, according to court documents.
Those authorizations are not being extended for recipients from El Salvador and Haiti at this point, the filing said, because protections for them aren’t set to expire until later next year.
“Should the court’s order not be reversed or invalidated before” April 2, USCIS will issue another extension, this time covering all four countries, for another nine months to January 2, 2020, according to the court documents.
These procedures and other steps will be outlined in a Federal Register notice, the court filing said.
TPS protects migrants in the United States from countries that have been hit by dire conditions, such as epidemics, war or natural disaster.
Previous administrations had opted to extend the protections for most of the countries involved every few years when they came up for review, but the Trump administration has moved toward ending protections for the majority of immigrants under the program, arguing that the initial conditions that necessitated them are no longer present.
Immigrants and their family members filed a class-action lawsuit in March, alleging the government terminated protections for Sudan, El Salvador, Haiti and Nicaragua as a result of a predetermined agenda that violated the law.
In his ruling earlier this month, Chen said there’s evidence the administration may have violated the Constitution when it decided to end TPS for those countries. His order blocked plans to end TPS for those nations while the case is pending.
Officials are still moving forward with their push to appeal Chen’s decision, which the Justice Department has said “usurps the role of the executive branch in our constitutional order.”
Advocates say it’s hard to keep those affected by the court’s ruling apprised of the latest details in the case – particularly since the government’s pending appeal means the timing could change.
Word of the government’s latest filing was met with a mixture of relief and determination by TPS recipients, who say their lives will remain in limbo unless Congress passes a more permanent fix.
“The temporary relief that the government proposed … is a start, but does not provide the protections that we truly need,” said Orlando Zepeda, a TPS recipient from El Salvador who’s one of the plaintiffs in the case. “The judge’s order has given us enough breathing room to continue the fight, but we know our work is far from over.”