Trump administration halts plans to end the temporary protected status of Nepali and Honduran immigrants

 Tsering D Gurung

Thousands of Temporary Protected Status holders from Nepal and Honduras got a reprieve on Tuesday after the Trump administration agreed to temporarily halt the termination of their protected status. The news comes a month after a class action lawsuit was filed at the Northern District in California against the government for its decision to end the humanitarian programme for the two countries.

The lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), National Day Laborer Organizing network, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, and the law firm Sidney LLP on behalf of six TPS holders from Nepal and Honduras and three of their US-born children, argued the administration’s decision was “unconstitutional” and was motivated by “racial animus.” “This is huge news for the thousands of Nepalis living, working and depending on TPS in the United States,” said Prathana Gurung, campaign manager at Adhikaar, the organisation that has been at the forefront of the fight to demand TPS extension for Nepal. “It gives them some space to breathe so they aren’t living their lives in uncertainty.”

Nepal was set to lose its protected status—first granted in 2015 following the devastating earthquake that ravaged mainly the country’s hill districts—in June. Nearly 15,000 Nepalis have benefitted from the designation, which allows immigrants to live and work in the United States regardless of prior status. “This has given me hope to keep fighting for my community,” said 57-year-old Keshav Bhattarai, the main plaintiff in the case.

On Tuesday, US federal judge Edward Chen accepted and signed the agreement made between the two parties. Under the agreement, the temporary protected status for Nepal and Honduras will remain in place until a decision on Ramos v Nielsen is made.

Ramos v Nielsen refers to the lawsuit filed by a group of TPS holders from El Salvador, Haiti, Sudan and Nicaragua, challenging the Department of Homeland Security’s decisions to end TPS for the said countries. Last October, a federal district court granted a preliminary injunction, temporarily halting the termination of the countries’ protected status. The government appealed the ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. A hearing on the appeal has not been scheduled yet but is expected to take place sometime this summer. Under President Trump, the TPS programme that began in 1990 as an effort to offer temporary relief to individuals from countries wrecked by natural disasters or in midst of political upheavals and wars, has been effectively decimated. Since Trump took office in 2016, the Department of Homeland Security has cancelled the TPS status of six of the ten designated countries—Nepal, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Sudan and South Sudan—which together account for nearly 98 percent of total TPS beneficiaries.

Published: 14 March 2019/The Kathmandu Post

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