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

Haitian activists and immigrants protest on Boston City Hall Plaza on Jan. 26. Haitian community leaders complained last week that the Trump administration's delays in re-registering those living in the U.S. legally through the Temporary Protected Status program would lead to job losses, travel problems and other issues for Haitians. (Charles Krupa/AP)MoreCloseclosemore
Haitian activists and immigrants protest on Boston City Hall Plaza on Jan. 26. Haitian community leaders complained last week that the Trump administration's delays in re-registering those living in the U.S. legally through the Temporary Protected Status program would lead to job losses, travel problems and other issues for Haitians. (Charles Krupa/AP)

Immigrants and 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 advocacy group Centro Presente to file the lawsuit, which states that 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," Espinoza-Madrigal said in a statement. "The Constitution does not allow governmental decision-making that is infected by this type of racial bias.”

Ten-year-old Gabriella Martinez is a U.S. citizen. Her mother is from El Salvador and is in the country with TPS. Martinez spoke at City Hall the day after the Trump administration announced the end of the temporary immigration program for El Salvador. (Shannon Dooling/WBUR)
Ten-year-old Gabriella Martinez is a U.S. citizen. Her mother is from El Salvador and is in the country with TPS. Martinez spoke at City Hall the day after the Trump administration announced the end of the temporary immigration program for El Salvador. (Shannon Dooling/WBUR)

Oren Nimni, an attorney with the lawyers’ committee representing the plaintiffs, said in a press release that the lawsuit asks a federal judge to block Trump's termination of TPS for Haiti and El Salvador, saying the administration's actions violates equal protection principles.

“As we have seen repeatedly in recent months, federal judges have shown a willingness to block actions by the Trump Administration that run afoul of constitutional protections,” said Nimni. “Today’s lawsuit seeks similar relief on behalf of the thousands of hard-working Salvardoran and Haitian immigrants currently receiving TPS protection.”

A Homeland Security spokeswoman told The Associated Press the agency doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

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 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. The temporary immigration status will expire as of July 22, 2019 for the nearly 5,000 Haitians living in Massachusetts.

Patricia Montes, executive director of Centro Presente, says many of the plaintiffs in the suit have been living in the country for decades.

“If TPS is terminated, they are at risk of losing everything -- the homes and the businesses they have built, the families they have raised and the money they have invested into their communities,” Montes said in a statement.

Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, 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."

Earlier:

Shannon Dooling Twitter Reporter
Shannon Dooling is a reporter representing WBUR on a team of public radio station journalists in the New England News Collaborative.

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