WORCESTER – A federal judge in Worcester has dismissed a lawsuit filed by Liberian refugees seeking to force President Donald Trump to allow them to stay in the country.
Dozens of Liberians, supported by the former top lawyer for the city of Philadelphia, alleged in U.S. District Court last month that racial animus was behind a Trump decision to end a program that had for decades allowed them to avoid deportation.
The program, called Deferred Enforcement Departure, was enacted in 1999, a time when Liberia was in the midst of prolonged armed conflict.
DED, which suspends the application of certain U.S. immigration laws, can be authorized by the president if deemed necessary for U.S. foreign policy interests.
It has been reauthorized continuously since 1999, but is set to expire in March 2020 after Trump cited improved conditions in the country that have also been acknowledged by the United Nations.
The plaintiffs in the case, including multiple Worcester residents, argued that Trump’s past denigrating comments about African immigrants show that racial animus was the true driver of his decision.
But U.S. District Court Judge Timothy S. Hillman ruled that even if he were inclined to believe the Liberians had a case, he would be powerless to do anything about it.
“In order to renew DED, the president must take affirmative action, and this court cannot compel the president to take that action,” Hillman ruled.
Hillman noted the authority from the program “comes from the executive branch’s constitutional power to conduct foreign affairs,” which is a “realm entrusted to the president.”
The finding squares with what Department of Justice lawyer Joshua M. Kolsky argued last month. During that hearing, Kolsky argued that even if a judge ruled the decision was based on racial animus, the judiciary has no power to order the president to make a discretionary program extension.
Lawyer for the plaintiffs filed a notice of appeal with the court Friday.