A federal judge ruled Thursday that hundreds of Puerto Ricans, who were accommodated in temporary housing on the mainland after Hurricane Maria, must leave the hotels and motels where they are staying no later than September 14.
However, Judge Timothy Hillman of U.S. District Court in Massachusetts, whose order put an end to FEMA’s Transitional Sheltering Assistance (TSA), called on the parties to work together to find temporary housing for the families before then.
LatinoJustice PRLDEF reacted to the news on Twitter, writing, “While disappointing, today’s decision highlights fact that FEMA has not provided survivors of Hurricane Maria with housing assistance needed in order to rebuild their lives as evacuees.”
NBC News informs that the decision came down after the national civil rights group filed a lawsuit on June 30 seeking a restraining order to stop FEMA from ending the program, and thus prevent these families from being evicted.
According to one of the attorneys involved in the lawsuit, at the time it was filed, 1,744 Puerto Rican adults and children were in the program.
“We were basically arguing, don’t evict them until you can assure that they have a place to go,” Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan, associate counsel of LatinoJustice PRLDEF, said for NBC News. “FEMA has a number of programs they could have activated in order to do this, but they decided not to.”
When the suit was filed, another judge introduced a temporary restraining order that extended the program to July 30. Hillman then extended it until August 31. In Thursday’s ruling, Hillman extended the restraining order to Sept. 13 in order to allow some time for families to relocate.
Under the program, Puerto Rican hurricane survivors were housed for almost 11 months. During other disasters, survivors participated in the TSA program for at least a year and a half.
On Wednesday, President Donald Trump prided his administration for doing “a fantastic job in Puerto Rico.”