12 February 2019: Three Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders from Nepal have joined hands with their Honduran counterparts to sue the US Secretary of Homeland Security, her deputy, the US Department of Homeland Security and the US Government itself for their decision to cancel TPS designation for Nepal and Honduras.
Their attorneys have claimed the decision to cancel TPS for Nepal and Honduras was racially-motivated.
Nepal was TPS-designated on 24 June 2015 in the aftermath of the devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake that killed thousands of people in the South Asian country.
TPS, a humanitarian relief programme, was first established by the Congress in 1990 for people who could not return to their countries of origin due to dangers borne out of war or natural disaster. TPS currently applies to ten different countries including Nepal. However, the status for Nepal and Honduras will terminate on June 24 of this year.
On 26 April last year, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen M. Nielsen announced the termination of Nepal’s TPS designation. Issuing a press release, she had argued at the time that the original reasons for the designation were no longer valid: “Based on careful consideration of available information, including recommendations received as part of an inter-agency consultation process, the Secretary determined that the disruption of living conditions in Nepal from the April 2015 earthquake and subsequent aftershocks that served as the basis for its TPS designation have decreased to a degree that they should no longer be regarded as substantial, and Nepal can now adequately manage the return of its nationals. Thus, as required under the applicable statute, the current TPS designation must be terminated.”
However, the class-action lawsuit filed in US District Court in Northern California yesterday states that the Trump Administration’s decision to terminate TPS status for Nepal and Honduras was based on “the President’s documented animus for non-white, non-European immigrants”.
The court complaint goes on to argue, “This animus is evidenced by numerous statements made by President Trump and other officials in his administration expressing disdain for non-white, non-European immigrants.”
As part of evidence to prove President Trump’s racial animus against non-whites, attorneys for the Nepalese and Honduran immigrants have cited his famous “nipple” antic. They claim president’s mispronunciation of Nepal as “nipple” was deliberate as was his laughing reference to Bhutan as “button”.
The court document also refers to a Newsweek story claiming President Trump is “known to fake an Indian accent to imitate Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during Oval Office meetings.”
The Nepalese plaintiffs in the lawsuit are 56-year-old Keshav Raj Bhattarai, 64-year-old Sajjan Pandey and 35-year-old Sumnima Thapa.
An estimated 15,000 Nepalese and 85,000 Hondurans are currently living in the United States as beneficiaries of the humanitarian provision of TPS. Unless Monday’s class action lawsuit halts Trump Administration’s decision to terminate TPS designation for Nepal and Honduras, they will be required to return home as soon as the status is terminated on June 24 this year.