Supporters of temporary protected status for immigrants from several countries...

Supporters of temporary protected status for immigrants from several countries protest March 12 outside a federal courthouse in San Francisco. Credit: AP/Jeff Chiu

Immigrant advocates on Thursday hailed a judge’s decision to block the Trump administration from ending protections that allowed immigrants from four countries to live and work legally in the United States.

U.S. District Judge Edward Chen in San Francisco granted a request for a preliminary injunction against the administration’s plan to discontinue temporary protected status for people from Sudan, Nicaragua, Haiti and El Salvador.

The program affects more than 260,000 Salvadoran immigrants in the United States, including thousands on Long Island who could have been forced to leave the country, seek lawful residency or fall into illegal status.

Chen ruled that ending the program would cause "irreparable harm and great hardship" to the immigrants.

In his ruling, Chen said there is evidence that “President Trump harbors an animus against nonwhite, non-European aliens which influenced his … decision to end the TPS designation."

“I think the judge was spot on,” said Patrick Young, an attorney at the Central American Refugee Center in Hempstead. Chen “is absolutely correct in his view that the termination of TPS had less to do with any improvements in the situations of these countries and everything to do with what he described as an animus toward nonwhite immigrants.”

Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, said, “Donald Trump wants to punish a quarter of a million immigrants and he doesn’t care how much it will hurt New York in the process. Thankfully, Judge Chen today affirmed that this country is still governed by laws, not racially motivated tweets or rants.”

Devin O’Malley, a spokesman for the Justice Department, criticized the decision, saying it “usurps the role of the executive branch.”

“The Justice Department completely rejects the notion that the White House or the Department of Homeland Security did anything improper,” O’Malley said. “We will continue to fight for the integrity of our immigration laws and our national security.”

Temporary protected status is granted to countries ravaged by natural disasters or war, and lets citizens of those countries remain in the United States until the situation improves back home. A total of 300,000 people have received the protections.

Critics of the program argue it has been extended improperly for years.

El Salvador was designated for TPS in 2001 after an earthquake, and the country’s status was repeatedly renewed. The Trump administration announced in January that the program would expire for El Salvador in September 2019.

The administration concluded that El Salvador had received significant international aid to recover from the earthquake, and homes, schools and hospitals there had been rebuilt.

Assemb. Michaelle Solages (D-Elmont) said Chen “sent a clear message that the Trump administration’s attempt to rescind the protected status of TPS beneficiaries is malicious, unjust, and will adversely affect our interests here in the United States.” She called on the government to provide TPS recipients with a path toward legal status.

Roy Beck of Numbers USA, a group that favors stricter immigration limits, called Chen's ruling "shocking" and said it "will undermine humanitarian relief in the future." By making temporary relief measures such as TPS permanent, Beck said, "there will be strong incentives to move TPS recipients back to their countries before it is safe so a judge can't say they have sunk roots in the U.S."

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