In a 145-page federal ruling, Kuntz said 50,000 to 60,000 Haitians and their U.S.-born children would suffer “irreparable harm” if the legal protection ended and they were forced to return to a country that is not safe.
Kuntz’s detailed ruling came out of a lawsuit filed by Haitians in Florida and New York, challenging the Trump administration’s decision to end TPS granted to Haiti by the Obama administration after its 2010 devastating earthquake. The administration has rescinded the protection for Central America and some African nations as well, sparking several lawsuits around the country.
The judge Accused the Trump administration of being motivated by politics and not facts.
In October, a federal judge in California granted a temporary injunction blocking the administration from deporting Haitian TPS holders and others as their termination deadlines approach. U.S. District Judge Edward Chen granted the temporary injunction as part of a California lawsuit filed by lawyers on behalf of TPS recipients from Haiti, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Sudan who have U.S.-born children. The decision is being appealed by the government.
During the trial, lawyers for the plaintiffs argued that then-Acting DHS Secretary Elaine Duke violated procedures and TPS holders’ due process when she ended the program for Haiti. They also cited emails and other internal government documents, including Duke’s handwritten November 2017 notes, to bolster the plaintiffs’ argument: that the White House was not interested in the facts about conditions in Haiti as DHS officials mulled over whether to continue to shield up to 60,000 Haitians from deportations, and Duke was under repeated pressure to terminate the program.
The decision, the suit alleged, was also rooted in the president’s “racially discriminatory attitude toward all brown and black people.”
“Clearly political motivations influenced Secretary Duke’s decision to terminate TPS for Haiti,” Kuntz said in his findings. “A TPS termination should not be a political decision made to carry out political motivations. Ultimately, the potential political ramifications should not have factored into the decision to terminate Haiti’s TPS.”
“The manner in which Acting Secretary Duke, DHS and the Department of State undertook the review process also strongly suggests the decision was pretextual,” Kuntz said in his ruling. He cited Kelly’s directives to his staff to “search for criminality and welfare data” as “further evidence the agency was fishing for reasons to terminate TPS for Haiti.”
Kuntz concluded that the plaintiffs had shown him evidence the White House wanted to end TPS for Haitians, influenced Duke’s decision and “did not simply provide input,” adding that “the White House ‘led’ the decision to terminate TPS.”
In his ruling, Kuntz also cited statements by Trump about immigrants from countries like Haiti, El Salvador and African nations that the president derided as “shithole countries.” The president has denied using those words.
Kuntz said he could not issue a final injunction, only a temporary one, because Haiti’s TPS designation, which was supposed to end on July 22 but was recently extended by DHS until January 2020 due to the legal challenges, has not yet expired.
The judge ticked through evidence provided by the plaintiffs, which he said showed government officials manipulated the facts to discount “negative” information about a hurricane, changed their interpretation of the TPS statute and edited a memo to make it support their case for termination. The program had been extended repeatedly since the earthquake and a subsequent cholera outbreak beset Haiti.
The plaintiffs said during the trial that at least 27,000 children were born to Haitians in the U.S. under the program who could face separation from their parents if TPS were ended.
The government is expected to appeal the decision.
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