Months have passed since the Trump administration announced that the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) granted to immigrants from Nicaragua, Haiti, Sudan, and El Salvador would be terminated, impacting many who have been living here for decades after disasters impacted their respective countries. Liberian-born people living the U.S. have also been targeted — at least 4,000 people who have a similar protection called Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) — and on May 4, the administration announced that TPS recipients from Honduras who’ve lived in the United States for over two decades would also have their protective status removed, a decision slated to impact an estimated 86,000 people.
These decisions have created urgency for those impacted to obtain residency or citizenship, as they have been given a few months to decide whether to go back to their native country or risk deportation. After analyzing the administration’s decision, nine TPS recipients and five United States citizens with TPS-recipient parents announced on March 12 that they are suing the federal government for violating their rights.
The ACLU Foundation of Southern California, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, and the law firm of Sidley Austin LLP filed the lawsuit with the mission to challenge the decision made by President Donald Trump.
“The lawsuit includes various components. It recognizes that there has been a change in the interpretation of the TPS statute by this administration, and that is a violation of the law, [since] it is grounded in racial discrimination and not in real analysis of the law,” Emi MacLean, an attorney with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, tells Teen Vogue. The lawsuit also addresses that the the current interpretation “does not recognize the fact that TPS holders have relied on this status and continuity for years and decades,” she says. In addition, “the lawsuit asserts that there’s a violation of the right of U.S. citizen children who are being forced by the termination of TPS to choose between two fundamental rights they are entitled to: right to their country [and a] right to be raised by their parent without governmental interference.”
Crista, a 14-year-old U.S.-born citizen, is the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit. She tells Teen Vogue that she found out her mother is a TPS recipient only recently, when her mom was distressed about the decision and having to leave the country. To ensure her family stays together, she joined the fight against the administration’s decisions.
“My role is to tell the Trump administration that they are violating my rights as a U.S. child and [the rights of] all the other children,” Crista tells Teen Vogue. ”They can’t be separating families or forcing us to choose to stay here or go back to live with our parents in their country. If we do decide to stay here some of us will end up living with our relatives, friends, or in foster homes, but they will not treat us the same way as our parents.”
Although there are previous lawsuits against the administration for the termination of TPS, none is inclusive of so many of the countries being affected by this decision. The National TPS Alliance, an organization whose core principles are “to save Temporary Protected Status for all beneficiaries in the short term and to devise legislation that creates a path to permanent residency in the long term,” brought together TPS recipients from different countries to share their personal stories to gain allies in solidarity with the difficulties they have faced in their motherland. “The lawsuit is an important effort to challenge the termination of TPS, but it is not the only effort,” Emi says. “Change is not going to happen only from actions that take place in the courtroom. Change is going to happen because of actions that TPS holders, community members, and the general public take in the street, in engagement with elected officials, and interpersonal interaction. The lawsuit is a powerful tool part of a larger struggle.”
There is a burden that children with immigrants families have, one that no one can understand but them. Crista, grateful to be able to help her parents, believes “fear of deportation should not be a part of any child’s life.” To continue this fight against a racist agenda and attack on black and brown immigrant families, she and Emi both believe that people have to shift their mindset and recognize TPS holders also have rights in this country.
“There needs to be a growing recognition of who these people are, of the contribution they have made and they continue to make in the United States, and the fact that this is their country too,” Emi says.