Van Der Hout LLP

New York Times Magazine Article Provides Important Historical Context for TPS

New York Times Magazine Article Provides Important Historical Context for TPS
April 19, 2021

On April 7, 2021, New York Times Magazine published an article that places the current Central American human rights disaster in a historical framework of decades of U.S. military intervention. It also links the civil wars in Central American countries and the U.S. sanctuary movement and ABC lawsuit in the 1980s with current ongoing lawsuits about the more recent administrations’ handling of TPS and asylum.

Throughout the article, two lawsuits are discussed at length. First, in the 1980s, asylum applications from Central American countries were being almost entirely denied while asylum applications from other countries were being granted at much higher rates. Because of this “perversion of the asylum process” some churches and synagogues “decided to help Salvadorans and Guatemalans enter and remain in the United States illegally.” However, many supporters of this sanctuary movement started being criminally prosecuted for their work.

“The lawsuit American Baptist Churches et al. v. Thornburgh began as an attempt to block this crackdown by claiming that the decision to offer sanctuary inside churches was ‘a matter of religious faith and practice.’ Before its filing, the case expanded to include other important arguments, including the claim that U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh was discriminating against asylum applicants from El Salvador and Guatemala. Three times over the next three years, the Reagan administration tried to have the lawsuit dismissed, but in 1989, the discrimination claim was allowed to proceed to trial. ‘It opened the doors to us getting huge amounts of discovery,’ said Marc Van Der Hout, the lead lawyer for the case. With subpoenas and sufficient time, he said, prosecutors might have located evidence that the United States was denying asylum with the express purpose of maintaining military aid to El Salvador.”

Marc Van Der Hout, on behalf of the plaintiffs, was eventually able to settle the case with the government , which agreed to reconsider all asylum applications of Salvadorans and Guatemalans living in the U.S.

Second, the article discusses the present day case of Ramos v. Nielsen, which challenges the Trump administration’s attempts to end T.P.S. for certain countries.

“Ramos v. Nielsen kept T.P.S. holders safe from deportation during Trump’s presidency. Put together by four organizations — the National Day Laborers Organizing Network, the Central American Resource Center, the National T.P.S. Alliance and the American Civil Liberties Union — this lawsuit won a preliminary injunction in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in fall 2018. The injunction suspended the termination of T.P.S. for six countries. During the discovery process, the plaintiffs’ attorneys turned up documents that revealed how Trump officials disregarded the recommendations of America’s own foreign ambassadors as well as the advice of senior officials in the State Department. Ending T.P.S. for El Salvador in particular, many of these experts warned, could damage America’s national security by undermining efforts to curtail illegal immigration and transnational gangs.”

However, in September the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the District Court did not have jurisdiction to make its determination over the case. Unless Congress passes new legislation to protect TPS holders, “the forced removal of 402,000 T.P.S. holders could begin as soon as October” leading to the “largest family-separation operation in American history.”

Read full article here.

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