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Haitian TPS holders sue Trump’s administration

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Eight Haitian and Salvadoran immigrants living in the United States with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) have filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration, arguing that its decision to end their status was based on racism and discrimination that violates their constitutional rights.

Also joining the lawsuit filed Thursday in US District Court in Boston is Centro Presente, a community organization that advocates for TPS beneficiaries in Massachusetts, according to the Miami Herald.

It said the suit was filed by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, which previously challenged the constitutionality of President Donald Trump’s executive order targeting sanctuary cities.

This is the second TPS-related lawsuit filed in recent weeks, the Herald said.

Last month, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Legal Defense Fund, the largest and oldest civil rights group in the US, in a suit asked a US federal judge in the US District Court of Maryland to reverse the decision to end the humanitarian protections for nearly 60,000 Haitian immigrants.

That suit argues that Acting US Homeland Secretary Elaine Duke’s November decision to end TPS for Haiti as of July 2019 is “irrational and discrimina­tory” and influenced by President Trump’s “public hostility toward immigrants of color,” according to the Herald.

It said that, in prior years, Haiti’s TPS designation had been renewed based on the slow pace of the country’s recovery from its cataclysmic 2010 earthquake, which earned it the designation from the Obama administration.

El Salvador’s designation, which impacts more than 200,000 Salvadorans, came in 2001 after a series of earthquakes devastated the Central American country, the Herald said. TPS is set to end for El Salvador on Sept. 9, 2019.

The Department of Homeland Security has also ended TPS for Nicaraguans in January 2019 and put a decision on hold for Hondurans, the Herald said.

Oren Nimni, one of the attorneys at the Lawyers’ Committee representing the plaintiffs, said there are many examples of racism and discrimination infecting Trump administration decisions including “Muslim bans” and plans to end DACA, the Delayed Action for Childhood Arrivals policy that has allowed Caribbean and other “Dreamers” to remain in the US.

“Everyone is keenly aware of the racist bigotry that has characterized the Trump administra­tion’s immigration policies,” Nimni told reporters. “We’ve all heard the reports of President Trump referring to Haiti and other TPS nations as ‘shithole’ countries.

“We’ve also heard the reports of President Trump expressing preferences for immigrants from Norway, a predominately white country,” he added. “We’ve also heard the countless derogatory and demeaning statements that President Trump had made about Latino immigrants, calling them rapists and criminals.”

“Governmental decisions that target people based on racial discrimination violate our Constituti­on,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. “The decision by the Department of Homeland Security to rescind TPS status for Haitian immigrants was infected by racial discrimination.

“Every step taken by the department to reach this decision reveals that far from a rational and fact-based determination, this decision was driven by calculated, determined and intentional discrimination against Haitian immigrants,” she added.

To make its case, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund also references in the lawsuit Trump’s alleged derogatory comments about Haitians and about limiting immigrants from the French-speaking Caribbean nation to increase immigration from European countries.

The NAACP complaint also points to reports that the president said all Haitians “have AIDS” and argues that Trump’s “racial bias against Haitian immigrants recalls America’s long, ignominious history of discrimination against Haiti, the world’s first Black republic.”

The lawsuit also states that officials at DHS sought crime data on Haitians with TPS, as well as information on how many Haitian nationals were receiving public benefits, in an effort to use “false anti-Black stereotypes about criminality and exploitation of public benefits.”

TPS covers hundreds of thousands of people who are living in the United States and who are temporarily unable to return to their countries of origin because of safety concerns or other issues, the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) noted, adding that Haitians gained the status days after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake devastated the country in January 2010.

President Barack Obama repeatedly renewed the 18-month protected status for Haitians. But in November, the Trump administration announced that it would not renew the status for thousands of Haitians when it expires next year.

Tyler Q. Houlton, acting DHS press secretary, said as a matter of policy, the agency does not comment on pending litigation.

Updated 3:05 am, July 10, 2018
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