WASHINGTON — After 16 months of negotiations, settlement talks between the Biden administration and plaintiffs in Ramos v. Mayorkas officially collapsed yesterday afternoon, leaving more than 260,000 people at risk of deportation. Beneficiaries of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and their US citizen children first brought the lawsuit in 2018 after Trump revoked protections for individuals from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, Sudan, and later for Nepal and Honduras. Though the Biden administration has since redesignated status for Haiti and Sudan, the administration has not extended the same protections for the other four countries.
“Hundreds of thousands of people have had humanitarian protection in the U.S. for more than two decades. That they are at risk of being torn from their communities and families is cruel and unjust,” said Emi MacLean, senior staff attorney at the ACLU Foundation of Northern California which represents the plaintiffs. “President Biden must act immediately to undo Trump’s racist TPS terminations and guarantee protection for TPS holders. TPS holders and their families should not be in limbo for one day longer.”
Through Ramos v. Mayorkas, TPS holders and their U.S. citizen children won temporary relief in October 2018, when a federal district court judge ruled that the terminations were illegal and motivated by racist intent. However, in September 2020, a divided 3-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the lower court’s order. That decision is not yet final because the plaintiffs’ request for rehearing before the full Ninth Circuit remains pending.
“We are deeply disappointed that the Biden Administration has chosen to defend the Trump-era termination decisions, thereby putting hundreds of thousands of families at risk of separation,” said Ahilan Arulanantham, co-director of the UCLA Center for Immigration Law and Policy which represents the plaintiffs. “We have asked the en banc Ninth Circuit to rule that those terminations were unlawful. This is what the law clearly requires.”
“By failing to redesignate TPS to protect hundreds of thousands of Central Americans and Nepalis, President Biden is doing the opposite of what he promised to do for migrant families," said Erasmo Ramos, a Honduran TPS holder and leader in the National TPS Alliance. “Instead, he is endorsing Trump’s anti-immigrant policies, stripping immigrants of protection, and denying our rights.”
Now that settlement negotiations have fallen apart, if the decision of the three-judge panel stands and Biden does not act decisively, TPS holders from these countries could lose protection at the end of this year.
“When President Biden arrived at the White House, I was hopeful that he would change the policies that left TPS holders vulnerable. That has not happened,” said Elsy Flores de Ayala, a plaintiff in the Ramos litigation who has had TPS for over 20 years and a leader in the National TPS Alliance. “The administration’s failure to reach an agreement to resolve our case is heartbreaking for us all. But we will not give up the fight to keep our families safe and together.”
“This is not where we hoped (or expected) to be nearly two years after President Biden took office,” said Jessica Bansal, legal director of Unemployed Workers United, which represents the plaintiffs. “TPS holders and their families deserve better. We will continue to fight these cruel and unlawful terminations for as long as necessary.”
“15,000 Nepalis call this country their home—and we are very disappointed that the Biden administration has not yet acted to protect us,” said Anil Shahi, a TPS holder from Nepal and immigration organizer with Adhikaar, a Nepali organization. “But we are resilient. We will continue to fight for our rights to remain in the country that is our home.”
“The Biden administration has the legal authority and moral obligation to expand TPS to all who need it,” said Doris Landaverde, a TPS holder from El Salvador and a leader in the National TPS Alliance. “Re-designating TPS for Central American countries should be the bare minimum for a government that owes a historical debt to a region ravaged by U.S. intervention and to our community whose labor sustains the US economy.”
On Wednesday, the National TPS Alliance is hosting a press conference and vigils across the country, including in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Long Island NY, West Orange NJ, Washington DC, Houston, Dallas, and Arkansas.