SAN FRANCISCO -- A federal appeals court on Wednesday appeared likely to allow the Trump administration to end humanitarian protections for immigrants from Haiti, Sudan, Nicaragua and El Salvador.
During a hearing, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals expressed skepticism of an injunction handed down last year by a San Francisco-based federal judge preventing the administration from lifting the protections.
About 300,000 immigrants from those four countries have been allowed to live and work in the United States because of unsafe conditions in their homelands. Most have lived in the U.S. for decades, and many have children who are U.S. citizens.
Once their designated protected status is removed, the immigrants would be subject to removal after 120 days.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and other civil rights groups obtained the preliminary injunction after arguing that the administration's decision stemmed from racial bias.
In January 2018, as the new policy was being promulgated, President Donald Trump asked participants in an Oval Office meeting why the United States should accept immigrants from "shithole countries" in Africa, Central America and the Caribbean, according to two people briefed on the meeting.
"What do we want Haitians here for?" the president asked, according to the people briefed. "Why do we want all these people from Africa here? Why do we want all these people from shithole countries?"
The president added: "We should have people from places like Norway."
But at least two of the 9th Circuit judges who have been asked to remove the injunction appeared unlikely to find racial bias.
Judge Consuelo M. Callahan, appointed by President George W. Bush, said, "It seems to me the record is fairly thin" on evidence of racist motivations.