DHS Asks For 'Positive Gems' About War-Torn Countries To Justify Returning Immigrants Before ending temporary protected status for immigrants whose home countries suffer from war or disasters, officials tried to show the countries were getting safer, even when that was not true.

DHS Asks For 'Positive Gems' About War-Torn Countries To Justify Returning Immigrants

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Now the latest chapter in the Trump administration's defense of ending temporary protected status, or TPS, for hundreds of thousands of people living in the U.S. Newly released internal emails show the Department of Homeland Security trying to prove that war-torn countries were getting safer when that was not true. NPR's Bobby Allyn has this report.

BOBBY ALLYN, BYLINE: DHS was planning on announcing the end of temporary protected status for people living in the U.S. from Sudan, Nicaragua, Haiti and El Salvador. But before it was made official, emails revealed and newly released court documents show DHS asked staffers to find positive gems about those countries ravaged by war and natural disasters. And that word, disasters - DHS officials wanted it scratched so it wouldn't look like they were sending people back home into harm's way. Career diplomats in the State Department fought back. That tension between Trump Homeland Security officials and veteran diplomats is laid bare in the emails a court made public this week. Ahilan Arulanantham with the ACLU of Southern California pushed for their release.

AHILAN ARULANANTHAM: They rewrote their reports, downplayed sometimes really horrific problems in countries and basically did everything that they could to justify the result that the Trump administration wanted.

ALLYN: He's on the legal team that's suing the Trump administration to force the government to reinstate TPS for more than 300,000 people. In one email exchange found in the documents, DHS wrote that the armed conflict in Sudan had sufficiently improved enough that the Sudanese no longer needed a safe haven. The problem with that conclusion - it wasn't true. A career foreign service officer replied in an email by highlighting a bloody, insurgent-led military offensive in Darfur just months before as proof.

ARULANANTHAM: This is an administration which has bent and, in this case, clearly broken the law in order to expel as many immigrants as possible.

ALLYN: A spokesman for DHS said federal officials aren't breaking the law by ending the special status, which, after all, has temporary in its name. Next month, the Trump administration will be going to federal court to prove that how they ended TPS was legal. If they can't, a judge could reinstate the protections. Bobby Allyn, NPR News.

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