Eight Haitian and Salvadoran immigrants living in the United States with temporary protection from deportation have filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration, arguing that its decision to end their Temporary Protected Status was based on racism and discrimination that violates their constitutional rights.
Also joining the lawsuit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Boston is Centro Presente, a community organization that advocates for TPS beneficiaries in Massachusetts. 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. Last month, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in a suit asked a federal judge in the U.S. District Court of Maryland to reverse the decision to end the humanitarian protections for nearly 60,000 Haitian immigrants. That suit argues that Acting 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.”
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. 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.
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 “Dreamers” to remain in the U.S.
“Everyone is keenly aware of the racist bigotry that has characterized the Trump administration’s immigration policies,” Nimni said during a press call. “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. We’ve also heard the countless derogatory and demeaning statements that President Trump had made about Latino immigrants, calling them rapists and criminals.”
Juan Carlos Vidal, 35, a Salvadoran businessman who is among the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said he wants to save TPS for himself and his family. A TPS recipient since 2001, Vidal lives in Revere, Massachusetts, and worked his way up from kitchen assistant to chef at a restaurant before opening four restaurants of his own in the Boston area. He employs more than 20 U.S. citizens, his lawyers say.
“I feel attacked,” Vidal said during a call with reporters. “I feel discriminated [against] because I know I contribute to the nation’s economy and the president doesn’t respect or value my contributions.”