On Monday, September 14, 2020, the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals issued a decision in Ramos v. Wolf, the preeminent legal challenge to the termination of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for people from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2017 and 2018. The three-judge panel ruled in favor of DHS, which will have tragic impact on a group of nearly 300,000 deeply embedded and cherished members of our communities—many of whom have resided in the U.S. for over two decades. Additionally, the Ramos decision opens the way for the termination of TPS for people from Honduras and Nepal in a separate case.Until termination goes into effect, TPS holders will be able to maintain relief from removal and work authorization, as well as apply for critical social safety net programs and obtain driver’s licenses. Yet terminations loom for people from Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua and Sudan on March 5, 2021 and for people from El Salvador on November 5, 2021. Legal counsel and advocates are appealing to the 9th Circuit to keep families unified through revisiting the Ramos decision.The ELCA has a long history of hospitality towards newcomers, rooted in love for our neighbor and grace when responding to the needs of vulnerable people. “Recalling that our families were once the ‘stranger’—and remembering our Lord’s call to love our neighbor as ourselves—can expand our moral imagination, enable us to see the new ‘stranger’ as our neighbor, and open us to welcome today’s newcomers,” says the ELCA’s social teaching on “Immigration.” These are integral members of society. TPS workers as well as recipients of Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), for example, are on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, even as they face the imminent end of their status.The toll on families is extreme as DACA and TPS recipients live in a perpetual state of limbo and fear of being returned to countries mired in social and political crises. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to uphold DACA but set the stage for a later termination. A memo by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in August established a new policy on DACA. It announced the DHS’s plan to reject new DACA applications, reject new advanced parole requests except in exceptional circumstances, and immediately limit all pending DACA renewals to one-year grants instead of two, increasing the financial and emotional burden on current DACA recipients.These measures and the Ramos decision bring new urgency for the Senate to take and pass long-overdue legislation establishing a roadmap to lawful permanent resident status and, eventually, U.S. citizenship.
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