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Trump’s Being Sued Over Terminating TPS for Haiti. Here’s Another Way To Argue That Case

The Trump Administration will have to defend its decision to end Temporary Protected Status for Haiti in court. The NAACP’s Legal Defense and Education Fund brought suit last week, maintaining that the Department of Homeland Security had no legitimate reason to end TPS, but did so out of discriminatory bias towards Haitian immigrants.

I won’t use this space to recite the tirade of reprehensible slurs coming from the White House. They’re outlined in the Complaint, and summarized by Jacqueline Charles at the Miami Herald.

The LDF bases it’s claim on the equal protection component of the 5th Amendment’s Due Process Clause.  The best chance of winning will come if LDF can show that Trump’s prejudices steered the outcome over at DHS.  ConLawProf blog explains a couple nuances on how the case might proceed.

Putting aside the constitutional question, though, it’s possible that DHS violated the TPS statute.  DHS ended TPS citing progress Haiti had made recovering from the 2010 earthquake. But under the statute, DHS should have assessed whether additional conditions, unrelated to the earthquake, created an intolerable risk of harm for returning immigrants.

Framing the DHS decision as a statutory violation has strategic benefits because questions of subjective intent and causation that arise in constitutional cases are notoriously hard to prove. And however solid the record, a judge could bristle at having to call out a President for intentional bias.  But those concerns are not an issue under the statute. The goal is simply to figure out what the language requires, and ask whether DHS followed the rules. Based on what we know so far, there’s a good chance it didn’t.

Here’s how the statute works.

Continue reading “Trump’s Being Sued Over Terminating TPS for Haiti. Here’s Another Way To Argue That Case”

The Jones Act Waiver for Puerto Rico Expires Today – Now What?

Show of hands: who here knew about the Jones Act before Vox ran a headline after Hurricane Maria?

Image result for puerto rico shipping port imagesIf you said yes, then you’re probably a maritime lawyer or shipping magnate – in which case, welcome!

If you said no, then you’re more like me – and I’m a lawyer who cut my teeth on a pretty major catastrophe in the Caribbean.  So don’t sweat it.

Anyway, I won’t belabor the details of the Jones Act now that we’re all arm-chair experts.  Besides, the purpose of this post is to explain proposed legislation that aims to reform or repeal the Act in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

But first we need to highlight some basics for friends who just climbed on board.  So let’s dive in.

The Jones Act is THIS bad

By most accounts, the Jones Act is a disaster for Puerto Rico that helped plunge the island into debt, and push the cost of living higher than most major metro areas in the US.  According to one study, it has drained $17 billion from the island economy over 20 years.

Related imageEverything from apples to i-phones are more expensive because of the Act.  Basic necessities are about to get even pricier now that Hurricane Maria destroyed the supply chain but accelerated demand.  That’s an incalculable burden for most Puerto Rico consumers whose annual income averages $18,000 per year.

Here’s how it works

The Jones Act stipulates

Continue reading “The Jones Act Waiver for Puerto Rico Expires Today – Now What?”

Flint: Why It’s Not A “Federal” Disaster

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has asked the federal government to declare Flint a major disaster on account of the city’s lead water crisis. That would make $96 million in sorely needed federal aid available to clean the water, fix the broken infrastructure, and provide health care to people who will suffer the life-long consequences of lead poisoning.  But the Obama Administration said no, prompting an appeal from state and local lawmakers who are desperate for extra cash.

So what gives?

Federal disaster declarations are governed by the Stafford Act, which limits when the President, through executive agencies, can declare a disaster.  The law provides for two types of declarations: an “Emergency” or a “Major Disaster.”  Some federal aid is allocated in an Emergency, but much more is allocated in a Major Disaster.

An “Emergency” is defined as “any occasion or instance” that requires federal assistance to supplement state and local efforts and capacities to save lives, protect property, or avert a catastrophe. Continue reading “Flint: Why It’s Not A “Federal” Disaster”

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