WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas

(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

29 Aug 2018 | Commentary

Government Documents Show that Trump Administration Rewrote the Facts so as to Justify Ending TPS Humanitarian Program

Government documents introduced as evidence in a recent lawsuit show that Trump administration officials deliberately ignored and sometimes retooled advice from seasoned diplomats and U.S. officials, in order to justify ending a humanitarian program that protected immigrants. The documents further support previous findings that the Trump administration recklessly and blatantly disregarded warnings from experts that ending the humanitarian program goes against U.S interests.

The Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program allows beneficiaries from countries destabilized by conflict or other catastrophes to legally reside and work in the United States. Over the past two decades, TPS has been granted to over 400,000 recipients from ten different countries that have experienced some form of catastrophic event such as war, famine, or natural disasters.

However, since 2017 the Trump administration has moved to end TPS for four Latin American countries: El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Honduras, putting over 300,000 people (many of whom have been living and working in the United States for decades) at risk for deportation.

U.S. Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) email regarding materials for TPS determination on El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras and Haiti:

The administration’s extremely narrow criteria used to make TPS decisions has been severely criticized by immigration and legal experts. Nine TPS recipients from El Salvador, Sudan, Haiti, and Nicaragua and their U.S.-born children have since filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration, claiming that the decision to end TPS violated the children’s fundamental rights as citizens and was based on unlawful considerations.

The recently released government documents, made public last week as part of the ongoing lawsuit, further bolstered the argument that the Trump administration willfully ignored, and sometimes rewrote, recommendations by country experts in order to advance its “America First” anti-immigrant agenda. Several series of e-mails show that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officials deliberately edited memos to the State Department so as to favor the termination of TPS, even though the initial drafts did not make a strong case for doing so.

Email regarding Haiti decision from USCIS Senior Advisor Robert T Law, formerly a lobbying director at FAIR, an anti-immigration organization classified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group:

USCIS email from director Francis Cissna regarding TPS determination materials for Sudan:

The court documents are not the only evidence that the Trump administration moved recklessly in ending TPS. An investigation by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee revealed that the administration ignored repeated warnings from senior U.S. diplomats and experts that deporting 300,000 Salvadorans, Hondurans, and Haitians who have been living legally for decades in the United States, would harm U.S. national security interests and threaten the safety of these people and their U.S. citizen children.

It seems all too clear that the Trump administration’s move to terminate TPS for these countries was a fundamentally flawed policy-making process—one that not only endangers the safety of hundreds of thousands of people, but one that, as repeatedly asserted by policy experts, goes against essential U.S. interests.

Review all of the documents made public in the lawsuit here.