| October 11 2019,

6:55 pm

Immigrant and civil rights defenders have been busy challenging the onslaught of policy changes under the Trump administration.

Outside of public action, courts have been an important method for halting policies that could cause general harm to immigrants and their families. Realizing this, the Trump administration, in coordination with the Republican-controlled Senate, have packed federal courts with conservative judges. One outcome of this effort was the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the latest iteration of the Muslim Ban.

Fortunately, there are challenges that have seen some measured success. These legal battles are important because they compel the administration to explain their positioning in regards to legislative action, exposing a thinly veiled anti-immigrant agenda for the public record.

With over a year of the Trump administration left, there is sure to be no shortage of new immigration-related litigation. So, here are just a few of the latest developments and recently filed lawsuits:

1. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

On November 12, 2019, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA enables some individuals who came to the U.S. as children to receive a two-year grace period of protection from deportation and allows those recipients to be eligible for a work permit.

In September 2017, DACA — a hard-fought result of the immigrant youth movement — came under threat when Trump announced the program’s termination. A number of lawsuits challenged the termination and as a result, U.S. district courts upheld a preliminary injunction. This development allows current DACA recipients to continue renewing their applications. The program, however, is not accepting new applications, leaving a new generation of undocumented youth with uncertain futures.

2. Temporary Protected Status (TPS)

In Ramos v. Nielsen, beneficiaries from Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Sudan, are challenging the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) decision to terminate the program. As explained by CFR, TPS "provides legal status to migrants from countries that have suffered natural disasters, protracted unrest, or conflict."

DHS declared Haiti safe for would-be returnees while maintaining a travel warning to the same island for U.S. citizens. The district court ruled the terminations were racially motivated. Earlier this year, TPS beneficiaries from Honduras and Nepal also filed a similar lawsuit to keep the program in place via Bhattarai v. Nielsen. On August 15, 2019, TPS holders gathered in Pasadena, CA as a court of appeals heard the case and are currently awaiting a decision from this body.

3. Deferred Enforced Departure (DED)

In African Communities Together v. Trump, Liberian beneficiaries of the DED program are also challenging Trump’s termination. The USCIS describes DED as within "the President’s discretion to authorize as part of his constitutional power to conduct foreign relations. Although DED is not a specific immigration status, individuals covered by DED are not subject to removal from the United States, usually for a designated period of time."

On March 31, 2019, the Trump administration announced the end of immigration relief for an estimated 4,000 Liberians living in the United States. Like TPS holders, many have lived in the country for over 20 years without a pathway to legal permanent residency.  On October 9, 2019, a district court will hear oral arguments and decide whether to grant a preliminary injunction to keep the program in place as the case makes its way through the legal system.

4. Public Charge

Among the many attempts to undermine legal immigration, the administration has moved to bar low-income immigrants from U.S. citizenship if they use certain public benefits to care for themselves and their families. These benefits include Medicaid, food stamps, and housing assistance.

Utilizing these resources would qualify one as a “public charge.” Over twenty states and community organizations have filed separate lawsuits requesting an injunction on the rule, which is set to begin on October 15, 2019.

5. Diversity Visa (DV)

The DV is an online application that creates an opportunity for qualified foreign nationals from countries with low immigration, to apply for legal permanent residency in the United States. The program has been a vital lifeline for many African immigrants. The Trump administration bypassed the public notice and comment period and announced this year’s DV application, which began on October 2, would require current passport information.

In a process with less than one percent success rate, opponents say the passport requirement adds an unnecessary, lengthy, and expensive hurdle for applicants. On September 24, 2019, plaintiffs filed for a preliminary injunction to temporarily stop the rule from taking effect.

6. Asylum

In an effort to curtailed asylum seekers at the U.S.- Mexico border, a number of policy changes have impacted the asylum process. Markedly, the Migrant Protection Protocol (MPP) also known as “Remain in Mexico” policy requires asylum seekers to stay in Mexico while their claims go through immigration proceedings.

Many black migrants are living in unsafe and deplorable conditions and have claimed the asylum process at the border has been discriminatory. LGBTQ+ asylum seekers have also faced additional persecution in Mexico. On October 1, 2019, a district court heard oral arguments for the matter in Innovation Law Lab v. Nielsen case.

7. Detention Oversight

Poor conditions and medical care at the 160 detention facilities across the country have put the lives of migrants at risk. Yesterday, news broke of a 37-year-old man from Cameroon, who was detained at the Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego and died under ICE custody.

This case exemplifies the urgency of the class-action lawsuit filed in August by civil rights organizations, asking the courts to compel ICE to improve healthcare for immigrant detainees. Though they have committed no crime, for detainees, inaccessible and delayed medical care has been an added punishment by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.




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