Citing Racism, Haitian, Salvadoran Immigrants Sue Trump Over End Of Temporary Immigration Program

Feb 22, 2018

Immigrant advocates in Massachusetts are suing the Trump administration, saying its decision to terminate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitians and Salvadorans is racially motivated.

The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice partnered with the group Centro Presente to file the lawsuit, which states the federal government's decision to rescind the temporary immigration status for the two countries was "impermissibly infected by invidious discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, and/or national origin and therefore cannot stand."

Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, executive director of the lawyers’ committee, points to previous comments from President Trump, including equating Latino immigrants with rapists and referring to Haiti as a “shithole” country.

"The Administration’s decision to terminate TPS for El Salvador and Haiti manifests these discriminatory views," said Espinoza-Madrigal in a prepared statement. "The Constitution does not allow governmental decision-making that is infected by this type of racial bias.”

The temporary immigration status has allowed an estimated 243,000 Salvadorans nationwide, and more than 6,000 in Massachusetts, to stay and work without fear of deportation in the United States, in the wake of devastating back-to-back earthquakes that hit the Central American country in 2001.

The Trump administration says Salvadoran TPS holders have until Sept. 9, 2019, to leave the U.S. or make arrangements for another legal status before they become eligible for deportation.

The program allowed nearly 93,500 eligible Haitians nationwide to live and work legally in the U.S. because of unsafe conditions in their home country, as a result of a devastating earthquake that hit Haiti in 2010.

Senior administration officials say that conditions on the ground in Haiti have improved significantly since the earthquake that prompted the country's TPS status. The temporary immigration status will expire as of July 22, 2019 for the nearly 5,000 Haitians living in Massachusetts.

Gov. Charlie Baker has expressed his support for extending TPS for Haitians, Salvadorans and Hondurans.

In a letter addressed to then-Acting U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke, Baker wrote, in part: "I urge you to recognize the unsuitability of ordering tens of thousands of Haitians, Salvadorans and Hondurans now in the United States to return to homelands that are in crisis and that will be at risk of becoming further destabilized by a sudden influx of TPS nationals."

This report was originally published by WBUR.

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