A group of Haitian and Salvadoran immigrants filed a lawsuit on Thursday (February 22) claiming the Trump administration’s decision to end deportation protections for hundreds of thousands of immigrants was racially motivated.
The lawsuit filed in federal court in Boston challenges the decision, alleging that President Donald Trump’s stated reasons for terminating Temporary Protected Status (TPS) are a "smokescreen" for a racially discriminatory immigration agenda. It cites several statements made by the president that it says illustrate his contempt for Black and Latinx immigrants.
The suit reads, in part:
President Trump has long made clear his dislike and disregard for Latino and Black immigrants, including equating Latino immigrants with rapists, asserting African immigrants who have seen America would never "go back to their huts," and saying a group of Haitian immigrants "all have AIDS." The animus directed towards Latino and Black immigrants is a clear and unfortunate thread running throughout President Trump’s statements—and is actualized by his administration’s policies, such as the one challenged by this lawsuit.
Roughly 200,000 Salvadorans and 59,000 Haitians benefit from TPS, a form of humanitarian relief offered to immigrants from countries affected by natural or political disasters.
Previous administrations extended TPS to these immigrants several times, but Trump ended TPS for Haitians in November and gave them 18 months to leave the United States or risk deportation. In January, the Trump administration made a similar decision with Salvadoran immigrants who fled their country after two earthquakes in 2001 crippled their country. They have until September 9, 2019, to leave the U.S. or secure legal residency.
As Colorlines previously reported, Haitian TPS holders have resided in the U.S. for an average of 13 years and have an estimated 27,000 U.S.-born children. They send billions of dollars back to the island in remittances, which amounted to 25 percent of Haiti’s GDP in 2015. Salvadoran TPS beneficiaries have an estimated 192,000 U.S.-born children, and their estimated contribution to the nation’s GDP have been pegged at $3 billion.
In announcing termination of TPS for Haitians and Salvadorans, Department of Homeland Security officials said that current, improved conditions in the two countries no longer support their protected status. On Thursday, DHS declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Thursday’s lawsuit was filed on behalf of the East Boston-based community group Centro Presente. The suit highlights the cases of several immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for many years while managing successful businesses.
"Many of the plaintiffs have lived in the United States for decades," Patricia Montes, executive director of Centro Presente, said in a statement. "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."