Appeals court reverses injunction blocking removal of protected immigrant groups

The Department of Homeland Security logo is seen on a law enforcement vehicle in Washington, D.C. on March 7, 2017. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

A federal appeals court in San Francisco on Monday reversed a 2018 preliminary injunction that blocked the Department of Homeland Security from terminating "temporary protected status" designations that allowed an estimated 400,000 immigrants from six countries to remain in the U.S.

Ahilan Arulanantham, lead counsel for the plaintiffs in the case, 
said that they were "deeply disappointed" by the decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and they intend to seek review of the panel decision by all of the judges of the 9th Circuit and, should that not be successful, by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Should the decision stand, the earliest dates on which the DHS 
could remove TPS holders from the U.S. is March 5, 2021 for people from Sudan, Nicaragua, Haiti, Honduras and Nepal and Nov. 5, 2021 for El Salvador. People from those countries have been allowed to stay in the U.S. due to war, disaster or other "extraordinary and temporary" conditions in their home countries.

The ruling not only affects the TPS holders but more than 200,000 
of their children who were born in the United States and hold U.S. 
citizenship, according to Arulanantham.

The majority opinion, authored by Judge Consuelo M. Callahan, 
found that Congress had decided that direct challenges to DHS decisions to terminate the TPS designations were not subject to review by the courts.

The majority rejected arguments that review was appropriate 
because the plaintiffs challenged a collateral matter -- DHS abandonment of a long-standing practice of considering subsequent events in designated countries when considering TPS status.

The majority also rejected a challenge based on President Donald 
Trump's alleged "animus" against people from the designated countries.

In entering the injunction, the District Court had found that 
Trump's public comments revealed "an animus against non-white, non-European aliens". The majority found there was no evidence that Trump's alleged animus influenced DHS' decision to terminate the designations.

In a 50-page dissenting opinion, Judge Morgen Christen sharply 
disagreed with the majority.

She said, "the consequences of the majority's decision are 
monumental, but the majority's reasoning is deeply flawed."

Christen would have affirmed the District Court's decision based 
on her view that the plaintiffs did not directly challenge the DHS 
termination, but the collateral policy change.

Callahan and Judge Ryan D. Nelson, who concurred in the decision, were appointed to the 9th Circuit by Presidents George W. Bush and Trump, respectively. Judge Christen was appointed by President Barack Obama.