The federal government presented a plan to temporarily extend Temporary Protected Status for thousands of immigrants, in response to a court order that blocked the Trump administration’s plan to end that protection.
The government’s plan ensures that more than 300,000 TPS beneficiaries from Sudan, Nicaragua, Haiti and El Salvador will continue to have legal status and permission to work in the United States as long as the court order remains in effect. The protection would continue for at least six more months if the court order is reversed through an appeals process.
The beneficiaries immediately affected by the ruling are the Sudanese, whose TPS status was scheduled to end on Nov. 2. Nicaraguans faced a January deadline. Both groups will now receive TPS extensions.
The government’s plan comes as a caravan of TPS beneficiaries and immigration activists travel the country on a bus, knocking on the doors of politicians’ offices and organizing events and press conferences. The members of the caravan organized by the National TPS Alliance, who advocate a solution that grants permanent status for immigrants, were received by local organizations on Wednesday in Miami’s Little Haiti neighborhood.
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“We are on the caravan to uplift TPS recipients and to show the administration that we are not scared,” William Martinez, 26, who is from El Salvador, told a crowd in Little Haiti. Martinez, who came to the U.S. in late 2000, was among 17 immigrants who arrived Wednesday as part of their efforts to get the Trump administration to reverse its decision to end the immigration benefit.
While he welcomed the court ruling blocking the administration from making plans to deport TPS holders, Martinez, who boarded the bus in Minnesota, said it has no bearing on the caravan. The bus, named Libertad (Liberty), is scheduled to arrive in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 9.
“We are not going to stop,” he said.
In early October, U.S. District Judge Edward Chen granted a preliminary injunction preventing the government and the Department of Homeland Security from ending TPS. Chen issued the injunction as part of a lawsuit in California, filed by lawyers representing a group of TPS beneficiaries from Haiti, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Sudan, who have children born in the United States. A spokesman for the Justice Department said then that Chen’s order “usurps the role of the executive branch.”
Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Southern California, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) and a private law firm requested a temporary ban, arguing that the government’s decision to terminate the program was motivated by racism and negatively affects immigrant families.
On Wednesday, lawyers and representatives of the groups involved in the lawsuit said the government’s plan is a temporary relief. But they warned that they must wait for the authorities to publish the details of the plan in the Federal Register in order to have a clearer idea of how it will be implemented.
“The order requires the government to maintain the current TPS status while the lawsuit is pending in court ... this will be done through extensions,” said Emi McLean, NDLON legal co-director.
“To be clear, this doesn’t mean that the administration is having second thoughts, there is nothing humanitarian about this. They were simply forced by the court to do this,“ said McLean, who stressed that the Trump administration appealed Chen’s order immediately.
Chen’s decision did not include the citizens of Nepal or Honduras, who are also beneficiaries of the program. The government had not announced the termination of the program for those countries when the lawsuit was filed in California. A separate lawsuit in Boston represents Hondurans, Salvadorans and Haitians. Earlier this summer, another federal judge blocked the government’s efforts to dismiss the lawsuit.
The government must publish the notice before Nov. 2 in the Federal Register to clarify that work permits and other documents of TPS beneficiaries remain valid, even though the date on them has expired.
“The existing work permits, along with the Federal Register notice, must be sufficient to show that they can continue to legally be present and work in the country and employers must accept the document as valid,” McLean said. “TPS beneficiaries can, if they want, order another work permit but it would cost them $485 and it would be for a short period.”
The Federal Register will first publish the notice for the beneficiaries of Sudan and Nicaragua. Immigrants with TPS from other countries will have a warning as their end dates near — assuming the case is not yet settled.
McLean said many people did not renew their TPS registration during the last deadline.
Now those beneficiaries will have the opportunity to register again and benefit from the court order. Legal experts advise that they do so as soon as the notice is published in the Federal Register.
McLean said her organization will publish more information on the website www.nationaltpsalliance.org and warned beneficiaries to go to local immigrant groups if they need help.
For Umaine Louis-Jean, a Haitian immigrant living in Fort Lauderdale, and Francis Garcia, who immigrated from Honduras and lives in Las Vegas, the judge’s order gives them “the opportunity to continue fighting.”
Both are beneficiaries of TPS, have U.S.-born children and are participating in the Libertad caravan.
Garcia said the migrant caravan making its way across Central America, through Mexico to the United States, highlights the importance of maintaining TPS.
“It breaks my heart,” Garcia said. “I see all those people who are fleeing and I think, ‘I cannot take the risk of going with my children to a country where people can’t live because of poverty and danger.’
“That’s why we have continue to fight here,” she said, “in the country where we have lived for more than 20 years and worked legally.”
Miami Herald writer Aisha Powell contributed to this report.
Follow Brenda Medina on Twitter: @BrendaMedinar and on Facebook: @BrendaMedinaJournalist.