Advocates for hundreds of thousands of Haitian and Central American immigrants facing deportation from the United States said a California federal judge’s decision to temporarily block Trump administration plans to send them back home offers new hope — but also increased uncertainty.

U.S. District Judge Edward Chen on Wednesday granted a preliminary injunction stopping the administration and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security from terminating Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, for immigrants from Haiti, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Sudan. The ruling affects over 300,000 people who, under the TPS program, have been allowed to live and work legally in the U.S. for decades after war or major natural disasters in their own countries.

“I’m happy to hear that there is still a possibility that the TPS could be extended. It gives us TPS holders hope,” Elva Castillo, 71, who immigrated from Nicaragua to Miami 21 years ago, said Thursday. “But it is important that we keep up the fight.”

Chen granted the injunction as part of a California lawsuit filed by lawyers on behalf of TPS recipients from the four countries who have U.S.-born children. Lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) and a private law firm sought the temporary injunction, arguing that the administration’s decision to end the program was motivated by racism and would adversely affect the immigrant families.

Some 19 states and 34 cities and counties filed friend-of-the-court briefs supporting the preliminary injunction, said Emi MacLean, co-legal director of NDLON.

“This is an extraordinary decision. It is the first time in the history of the TPS statute, a statute from 1990, that there has been a court-ordered halt for any TPS termination,” MacLean said Thursday, during a conference call held by the National TPS Alliance. “It is hugely important in terms of what is says about the Trump administration’s decision-making policies in the arena of immigration.”

She warned, however, that the decision is “preliminary and something we will need to continue to defend in the courts, in the streets and in Washington.”

As part of their arguments, MacLean and others cited the potential separation of families as well as President DonaldTrump’s alleged reference in Januaryto Haiti, El Salvador and some African nations as “s—hole countries.”

In the ruling, the judge said that “TPS beneficiaries and their children indisputably will suffer irreparable harm and great hardship.”

The ruling extends only for the duration of the California lawsuit. The next hearing in the case is scheduled for Oct. 26. The government has said it will appeal the ruling. The Associated Press reported that Justice Department spokesman Devin O’Malley said the ruling “usurps the role of the executive branch.”

“The Justice Department completely rejects the notion that the White House or the Department of Homeland Security did anything improper. We will continue to fight for the integrity of our immigration laws and our national security,” O’Malley’s statement said, according to the AP report. Continue reading

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