The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, alleging its decision to rescind a temporary, protected immigration status for Haitians was racially motivated.
“The action by the Department of Homeland Security to rescind TPS [temporary protective status] for Haitian immigrants is clearly racially motivated,” said NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson. “The U.S. Constitution prohibits singling out certain immigrants for harsh treatment based on their skin color and/or ethnicity. But more than that, basic fairness militates against this draconian action taken by DHS under the direction of President Trump.”
Temporary protective status, writes Politico.com, allows people meeting certain criteria to garner temporary refuge in the United States. TPS is typically granted to individuals fleeing catastrophe in their homelands.
For Haitians, the trigger for TPS was a catastrophic earthquake in 2010. Nicaraguans and Hondurans – who recently had their TPS status ended by the Department of Homeland Security – were protected for decades, due to a series of civil wars and natural disasters afflicting Central America.
The NAACP’s suit drew on Trump’s recent comments at an immigration panel. While his exact words are up for debate, he’s alleged to have belittled the nationals of Haiti, El Salvador, and several African countries.
Back in December, he purportedly claimed that Haitians “all have AIDS.”
“It’s disheartening to see the Haitian community targeted and mistreated in this way, but it is also not surprising,” said Raymond Audain, Senior Counsel with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. “This decision reflects a shameful pattern of conduct by this Administration in which racial stereotypes drive policy decisions.”
The Department of Homeland Security’s decision could affect 46,000 Haitians living in the United States under temporary protective status. In November, the former Acting Secretary of Homeland Security, Elaine Duke, said that the “extraordinary but temporary conditions caused by the 2010 earthquake no longer exist.”
The NAACP complaint – filed on Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland – seeks an injunction of Duke’s decision, arguing it was “an egregious departure from the TPS statute’s requirements and an intent to discriminate on the basis of race and/or ethnicity.”
Moreover, the NAACP writes, Haiti is “ill-prepared to receive” a sudden influx of tens of thousands of immigrants from the United States. A cholera outbreak in 2010 – followed by a devastating 2016 hurricane – would only complicate the island nation’s efforts to reintegrate a population that’s been living abroad for the better part of a decade.
Similar arguments have been made to protect the TPS of some 200,000 Salvadoran immigrants, as well as tens of thousands of Hondurans and several thousand Nicaraguans – all of whom similarly had their protective statuses revoked near the end of 2017.