Advocate groups are challenging in federal court a Trump administration policy that makes it difficult for certain migrants to obtain Green Cards in the United States, as well as the appointment of Ken Cuccinelli, who oversaw the change.
The lawsuit argues that a policy change, implemented last year when Cuccinelli was leading US Citizenship and Immigration Services, was done without a rationale for the change, was motivated by “animus against immigrants of color” and was carried out by an unlawful acting official.
The case is the latest challenge to the legitimacy of the tenure of Cuccinelli, who now serves in the No. 2 spot at the Department of Homeland Security. The lawsuit comes just weeks after the Government Accountability Office concluded that acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf and Cuccinelli, the senior official performing the duties of deputy secretary, were appointed as part of an invalid order of succession.
Seven migrants represented in the lawsuit allege that the change, issued as a “policy alert” last year, has prevented them from obtaining Green Cards. All seven plaintiffs have Temporary Protected Status, benefits from a decades-old program that provides deportation relief to immigrants from countries with armed conflict, natural disaster or disease.
The Trump administration has moved to end this program for numerous countries, including Sudan, Nicaragua, Nepal, Honduras, Haiti and El Salvador, while also tightening restrictions on the program.
Previously, migrants with this protected status could put themselves on a pathway to becoming a lawful permanent resident, or Green Card holder, in the US if they left the US and returned. This would void a previous deportation order, allowing them to remain in the US indefinitely and potentially become a US citizen.
On December 20, 2019, the Trump administration ended this practice, preventing this group of migrants from having a way to get Green Cards. The change could affect tens of thousands of people, leaving them in legal limbo, the lawsuit argues.
All seven plaintiffs — six from El Salvador and one from Haiti — believed that they would be able to adjust their status to potentially obtain Green Cards.
For instance, Blanca Mirna Romero del Cid, a national of El Salvador who has lived in the US for approximately 26 years, traveled to El Salvador in 2013, believing it would allow her to apply for lawful permanent status. She has four US citizen children, including her oldest who helped petition for her Green Card.
Earlier this year, USCIS denied her request, leaving her “vulnerable to removal,” according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit, brought by Democracy Forward and the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., asks the court to throw out the policy and declare Cuccinelli’s position unlawful.
“The United States is their home, by all measures,” said Ben Seel, Counsel and Legal Analyst for Democracy Forward, about the plaintiffs, adding that many of them have been in the US for decades, with spouses and children who are US citizens.