A federal judge on Monday denied the Trump administration's bid to throw out a lawsuit that alleges its decision to end special protections shielding Haitian, Salvadoran and Honduran immigrants from deportation was racially motivated.
U.S. District Judge Denise Casper's ruling means the case that seeks to block the administration from terminating temporary protected status for thousands of immigrants from those three countries can move forward. She also rejected the administration's request to remove Republican President Donald Trump as a defendant in the case.
"This represents an extremely favorable outcome for the Honduran, Haitian and Salvadoran immigrants who have felt completely blindsided by the federal government's refusal to maintain this humanitarian protection program and who are firmly convinced that racism and discrimination were at the heart of the decision to terminate TPS," said Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal. He's executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, which filed the lawsuit in February.
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Casper denied one of the group's requests for relief but allowed all other claims to move forward, saying the immigrants have made plausible constitutional claims.
"This Court finds that the combination of a disparate impact on particular racial groups, statements of animus by people plausibly alleged to be involved in the decision-making process, and an allegedly unreasoned shift in policy sufficient to allege plausibly that a discriminatory purpose was a motivating factor in a decision," Casper wrote.
The Department of Justice didn't immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
Last month, a federal judge in San Francisco refused to throw out a similar lawsuit challenging the administration's decision to end the protections for immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan.
Temporary protected status provides safe havens for people from countries experiencing armed conflicts, natural disasters and other challenges.
The program has been continuously extended for Haitians since a 2010 earthquake. Protections for El Salvadorans have been in place since earthquakes devastated the country in 2001. For Hondurans, the program known as TPS has been in place since 1999 after Hurricane Mitch devastated the Central American nation the year before.
The Trump administration argues that conditions in the countries have improved and that the program was not designed for the protections to be continuously extended.