A divided three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday that the Trump administration can end humanitarian legal protections for about 405,500 immigrants from El Salvador, Nicaragua, Haiti, Sudan, Honduras, and Nepal. The migrants were welcomed to the U.S. though the Temporary Protection Status (TPS) program for countries hit hard by natural disasters or civil conflict.
The three judge panel, in a 2-1 decision, rejected arguments that the administration had failed to follow proper procedures and that the decision was tainted by racist comments from President Trump and others in his aides. Two of the judges were appointed by Republicans — Trump and George W. Bush — and the dissenting vote was cast by an appointee of President Barack Obama. The American Civil Liberties Union, which represents the migrants, said it will seek an opinion from the full 9th Circuit and could appeal to the Supreme Court.
"If the decision stands, these longtime lawful residents who were welcomed to the U.S. because their countries were mired in violence or natural disasters could be sent back," the ACLU said. "Because they have several hundred thousand American children — many of whom are school-aged — this decision would force those families to be torn apart."
But that won't happen for months, The Associated Press notes. The TPS holders from Honduras, Haiti, Nicaragua, Nepal, and Sudan could be forced to leave starting March 5, but the Salvadorans have until Nov. 5, 2021, under a special deal worked out with Trump's government. If Democrat Joe Biden wins the presidency in November, he has said he will immediately review the TPS decisions and seek ways for longtime law-abiding residents to remain in the U.S. and seek citizenship.