TPS Beneficiaries, Community Group Ask Court to Halt Unlawful Ken Cuccinelli Policy That Obstructs Path to Obtain Green Card
WASHINGTON — Seven Temporary Protected Status (TPS) beneficiaries — who live in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, and Miami, Florida — and the Central American Resource Center (CARECEN) filed a motion for a preliminary injunction in their suit against the Trump administration for unlawfully blocking TPS beneficiaries’ path to permanent U.S. residence. The motion is supported by declarations from the seven individual plaintiffs, who, like so many TPS beneficiaries, have established strong ties to their communities. The declarations outline the harm caused by the unlawful policy. The policy was authorized by then-acting USCIS Director Ken Cuccinelli, whose appointment was first ruled illegal in response to a separate lawsuit brought by Democracy Forward, Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), RAICES, and Debevoise & Plimpton LLP.
The plaintiffs in this case are represented by Democracy Forward, CLINIC, Montagut & Sobral, PC, and Debevoise & Plimpton LLP.
A recent Ninth Circuit decision lifting an injunction clears the way for the Trump administration to move forward with its plans to eliminate protections for many TPS beneficiaries. TPS protection could end, for some beneficiaries, as soon as March 2021, leaving beneficiaries with pre-existing removal orders, like the individual plaintiffs in this case, vulnerable to the threat of imminent deportation. This looming risk heightens the urgency of the groups’ legal effort.
Prior to USCIS’s unlawful change, each of the plaintiffs took significant, costly steps in order to become eligible to apply for permanent residence. Several plaintiffs had already applied before the change was announced. All took action in a good faith attempt to keep the lives they have built for themselves and their U.S. citizen families in the U.S. intact. But USCIS’s unlawful policy, if left in place, would mean their efforts were all for naught — and that the plaintiffs might soon face deportation to countries that they hardly know or that they long ago fled for fear of their own safety.
In written declarations, the plaintiffs describe the impossible bind that USCIS’s unlawful change has put them in:
Heroldine Bazile was just eight months old when her mother fled Haiti out of fear for their safety and brought her to the U.S. to live a better life.
- Bazile graduated high school in 2016 with an Advanced Placement program diploma.
- She is a pharmaceutical technician in Miami, Florida, is currently completing her bachelor of science in mortuary science, and hopes to someday own a funeral home.
- “If the U.S. government ends the TPS program for Haiti,” Bazile states, “the U.S. government could remove me from the United States and send me back to Haiti where I have not lived since I was a baby.”
Maria Floriselda Alvarez Gomez fled El Salvador fearing physical abuse and extortion, has since had status under TPS for nearly two decades, and is raising four children, including a child with special needs, in northern Virginia.
- Alvarez took costly steps to become eligible to apply for permanent residence, but USCIS’s unlawful change now prevents her from applying.
- Alvarez fears the prospect of deportation, as her four U.S. citizen children depend on her for support. “My children, especially my 10-year-old daughter Kayly, need me here in the United States,” she tells the court.
Blanca Mirna Romero del Cid fled El Salvador as a teenager. Since coming to the U.S. nearly three decades ago, she has raised four U.S. citizen children in Virginia with her husband.
- Because of USCIS’s unlawful change, Romero del Cid has no practical means of securing permanent residence and could soon face deportation — a consequence that she says “would be devastating for my children, especially 2-year-old Moises and 4- year-old Ruben, for whom I am the primary caretaker.”
Yolanda Maritza Ramirez Martinez fled El Salvador out of fear for her life and has, over the last 20+ years since coming to the U.S., raised a family and made a home with her U.S. citizen husband.
- “We are,” Ramirez tells the court, “a close and loving family that supports one another very much. If the TPS program is ended, the U.S. government could remove me from the United States — my home for more than 20 years — and send me back to El Salvador, away from my U.S. citizen family.”
USCIS’s unlawful policy change — disguised by the agency as a mere “clarification” in a December 2019 “Policy Alert” — was enacted by Ken Cuccinelli, an unlawfully appointed Trump official; directly contradicts the Immigration and Nationality Act; is arbitrary and capricious; and was issued without giving the public any notice or opportunity to comment before altering the legal rights of TPS beneficiaries.
The motion for a preliminary injunction was filed on Oct. 21. The lawsuit was filed on Aug. 26 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Learn more about the suit here, and read the motion, supporting declarations, and complaint in full.
Democracy Forward is a nonprofit legal organization that scrutinizes Executive Branch activity across policy areas, represents clients in litigation to challenge unlawful actions, and educates the public when the White House or federal agencies break the law.
CARECEN’s mission is to foster the comprehensive development of the Latino population in the Washington metropolitan region by providing direct legal services, housing counseling, citizenship education, and community economic development, while promoting grassroots empowerment, civic engagement, and civil rights advocacy.
The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., or CLINIC, advocates for humane and just immigration policy. Its network of nonprofit immigration programs — almost 400 affiliates in 48 states and the District of Columbia — is the largest in the nation. CLINIC provides substantive legal, trial skills, and program management training and resources, legal challenges to anti-immigrant policies and regulations, advocacy support at state, local and national levels, and remote-based crisis response models to immigration enforcement.
Montagut and Sobral P.C. is an immigration law firm in Falls Church, VA, which has been in business since 1986. Their attorneys have over 100 years of combined experience practicing immigration law, and currently the majority of their clients are from Central America.
Debevoise & Plimpton LLP is a premier law firm with market-leading practices, a global perspective and strong New York roots. We deliver effective solutions to our clients' most important legal challenges, applying clear commercial judgment and a distinctively collaborative approach.