The Trump administration's plan to kick out thousands of immigrants who had fled to America from ravaged homelands had been proceeding on schedule – until late Wednesday, when a federal judge in California essentially said, "Not so fast."
For thousands of migrants in the Philadelphia region, who have built full lives and vibrant immigrant communities, who are raising their American-born children, the decision offers an important reprieve.
Federal Judge Edward Chen granted a preliminary injunction that prevents the administration from ending what is called Temporary Protected Status for immigrants from Sudan, El Salvador, Haiti, and Nicaragua. CNN provided a solid overview of the judge's decision, including his finding that the administration may have violated the Constitution.
TPS, as it is known, is a special immigration status that allows about 320,000 people from 10 countries to live and work in the United States because of war, floods, droughts, epidemics or armed conflict in their home nations. Some dread a forced return because violence still persists in their homelands.
"I prefer hiding from la migra" — immigration authorities — "than running from the crime in my country," Edwin Murillo, who came to Texas from El Salvador, told USA Today.
The status was never meant to be permanent when it was enacted by Congress in 1990. The government holds the power to designate a country for TPS, and to decide when conditions merit its cessation.
Philadelphia Mayor Kenney and others have fought the administration over ending TPS, declaring the president has "no compassion" for immigrants. Trump's action meant that people who came to the region from countries like Nicaragua and Haiti faced the immediate prospect of wrapping up their lives, disposing of homes and cars, and trying to find care for their citizen-children.
Nationwide, El Salvador has the most TPS recipients in the U.S. Hondurans make up the second-largest group, although their community in Philadelphia is small — 3,386 people, concentrated northwest of Center City, Census figures show.
"This is a country of immigrants. It made me sad somebody who has the education and power of the president does not recognize that," Miriam Turcios, of Honduras, told the Inquirer in May.
The intention was always that the migrants would return home at some point. But as conditions in those countries remained dire – some were poor and struggling even before disaster hit — succeeding generations of presidential administrations extended the protection and allowed those migrants to stay, in many cases for years.
Upon taking office, the Trump administration moved against TPS, insisting that the conditions that forced the immigrants' departure to America were no longer present in their homelands.
What's next? The Trump administration seems certain to appeal.
"The Justice Department completely rejects the notion that the White House or the Department of Homeland Security did anything improper," Justice Department spokesperson Devin O'Malley said in a statement after the ruling. "We will continue to fight for the integrity of our immigration laws and our national security."