The Trump administration on Monday lost its attempt to throw out a lawsuit challenging its decision to stop extending temporary legal status to immigrants from four countries.
U.S. Judge Edward Chen ruled that courts have the authority to review the lawsuit seeking to reinstate temporary protected status for people from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan. The suit plausibly alleges President Donald Trump made statements that could be construed as evidence of racial bias and tainted the administration's decision-making process about the temporary protections, Chen also said.
A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice declined comment.
The lawsuit filed in March says the administration's decision was motivated by racism and leaves the immigrants' American-born children with an "impossible choice" of either leaving their country with their parents or staying without them. It cites Trump's vulgar language during a meeting in January to describe African countries.
Temporary protected status is granted to countries ravaged by natural disasters or war, and lets citizens of those countries remain in the U.S. until the situation improves back home.
El Salvador was designated for the program in 2001 after an earthquake, and the country's status was repeatedly renewed. The Trump administration announced in January that the program would expire for El Salvador in September 2019.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen concluded that El Salvador had received significant international aid to recover from the earthquake, and homes, schools and hospitals there had been rebuilt.
The Trump administration ended the program for the other three countries as well.
More than 200,000 immigrants could face deportation because of the change, and they have more than 200,000 American children who risk being uprooted from their communities and schools, according to plaintiffs in the lawsuit — at least the third challenging the administration's decisions about temporary protected status.
The administration sought to dismiss the suit before Chen by arguing Congress prohibited courts from "second-guessing" the homeland security secretary's decisions about designating countries for temporary protected status or ending their status.
The explanations for ending the status of El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan, additionally, had a "rational basis," the DOJ said in court documents.
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