Published on: Oct 18, 2018, Last Edited: Oct 15, 2018
San Francisco district judge Edward Chen has granted a preliminary injunction against the Trump administration’s decision to remove temporary protected status from people from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan, saying that it would cause great hardship and irreparable harm to people who have lived, worked and raised families in the US for many years. The plaintiffs in the appeal had alleged that the administration’s decision was motivated solely by President Trump’s “America First” policy and that expelling immigrants who were not white would also be discriminatory on racial grounds.
Temporary protected status is granted to people whose countries have been devastated by war or natural disasters and it allows them to remain in the US until the situation in their home country has improved. The judge’s ruling stated that the administration had not shown how continuing the current programme, which has been running for 20 years, would be harmful while the plaintiffs in the case had demonstrated that disrupting the lives of these immigrants would harm both the local and the national economies.
When temporary protected status was first suspended for these countries, Elaine Duke, the then acting homeland security secretary, came to the conclusion that El Salvador had received significant amounts of international aid following the 2001 earthquake, allowing damaged infrastructure to be rebuilt. However, the country is currently undergoing a wave of violent protests against President Ortega and there is the looming threat of a civil war.
With the ending of temporary protected status, many of the affected families would face the stark choice either of uprooting their US-born children from the only community, schools and friends they have known or of splitting up their family. The ruling would apply to around 200,000 adults and 200,000 children born since their arrival who are at risk of being deported.
The US Department of Homeland Security has released draft proposals that would deny the visa applications of immigrants who are likely to become a charge on the public purse at any time. Most H-1B visa holders will not be affected by this change, although they must now prove their self-sufficiency when applying for a change of status, eg from a student visa to an H-1B visa.
Factors that would indicate a person being likely to be a public charge include being over 61 years of age or under 18, financial liabilities and poor credit ratings, medical conditions, lacking higher education or poor proficiency in English, having several dependents or lacking the skills required for employment. Since many H-1B holders are highly-educated and in well-paid employment, it might be considered that this ruling will not have a significant impact.
However, when applying for a visa extension, an HB-1 holder would have to provide evidence that he or she has never received and is never likely to receive public benefits over a specified threshold. Form I-944 will collect an extensive range of information to determine whether the application can be denied on the above grounds. Most HB-1 visa holders will be earning salaries that will place them in an income bracket above the required 250% in excess of the federal poverty level guidelines. However, the proposals could impact on professionals such as researchers or teachers, who may have the required educational qualifications but whose lower salaries may place them at risk.
Up to 55,000 immigrant visas are granted every year to people from countries with low admissions over the previous 5 years. 5000 of these visas are made available to Nicaragua under NACARA ( the Nicaraguan and Central American Relief Act) while the remainder are allocated to six geographical regions. No single region can be allocated more than 7% of the available places in any single year.
For October, visas will be made available to applicants in the DV-2019 category as follows:
•Africa, excluding Egypt: 2750
•Asia:1,000 (excluding Iran: 800, and Nepal: 600)
•North America (Bahamas):4
•South America and the Caribbean:150
Applicants are selected by lottery and entitlement to immigrant status only lasts to the end of the fiscal year.