Judge’s Ruling Halts Trump’s Removal of Haitians’ Protected Status

lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York on May 21, 2018, challenging the Trump administration’s decision to terminate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for approximately 50,000 Haitians.  On April 11, 2019, Judge William F. Kuntz II issued a preliminary injunction blocking the Trump administration’s decision pending the outcome of the litigation.

In making the decision, Judge Kuntz reviewed evidence submitted by the government, by the plaintiffs, and extra-record evidence including the “privileged” evidence only available to him. The Court rules that “Absent a preliminary injunction, there is a strong likelihood that Plaintiffs would suffer irreparable injury. Any harm to Defendants is strongly outweighed by the harm to Plaintiffs and their communities absent injunctive relief. The balance of hardships tips decidedly in Plaintiffs’ favor. Accordingly, Plaintiffs have met their burden . . .” (Order, p. 143.)

Particularly, the Court states that “Plaintiffs have demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits of their APA claims for three independent reasons. First, the evidence shows Acting Secretary [Elaine Costanzo] Duke’s decision was not in accordance with law because she did not base her decision on an objective, inter-agency assessment the TPS statute requires. Second, the evidence shows Acting Secretary Duke’s decision was arbitrary and capricious because she departed from past agency practices without explanation and was improperly influenced by the White House. Third, the evidence shows Acting Secretary Duke’s decision was pretextual and, accordingly, made in bad faith–the rationale she provided for her decision was not her real rationale.” (Order, pps. 87-88.)

In addition, Plaintiffs argue that the decision violated their rights to equal protection because it “was motivated by discriminatory animus and resulted in disparate impact against non-white immigrants.” The Court finds “at the very least, there are serious questions going to the merits of Plaintiffs’ equal protection claim, and thus justifying the issuance of a preliminary injunction on this independent ground.” (Order, p. 123.) 

Notably, the Court issues the injunction not only against DHS, but also against President Trump. The Court concludes that “injunctive relief against the President corrects unlawful conduct . . . and ensures the decision to extend or terminate TPS for Haiti is in accordance with the law. Plaintiffs cite numerous statements made by the President himself to support their respective claims in this action, and evidence within the administrative record reflects the influence of several senior White House officials. . .The United States is a government of laws, not of men. Executive officials, by the senior or subordinate, must follow the law.” (Order, p. 69.)