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Lawsuit Looks to Preserve Protections for Immigrants From Haiti, El Salvador

[caption id="attachment_10534" align="alignleft" width="620"] May Day immigration march in Washington, D.C. on May 1, 2017. Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM.[/caption] Several civil rights groups filed a federal lawsuit Thursday in a move to save temporary protected status for immigrants from El Salvador and Haiti, claiming the Trump administration has a "racially discriminatory immigration agenda." The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, claims the policy revoking TPS for Haitian and Salvadoran immigrants is based solely on race. TPS is a designation given to foreign nationals already in the United States who cannot safely return to their home country. Conditions can include natural or environmental disasters and armed conflict. The plaintiffs are represented by Massachusetts-based Centro Presente, which focuses on immigrant rights, and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice. "Defendants' stated reason for terminating TPS for Salvadorians and Haitians ignore these conditions and are nothing but a thin and pretextual smokescreen for a racially discriminatory immigration agenda—one the president has been astonishingly blunt about articulating," according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit includes a litany of derogatory statements and tweets from President Donald Trump about immigrants. "President Trump has long made clear his dislike and disregard for Latino and black immigrants, including equating Latino immigrants with rapists, asserting that African immigrants who have seen America would never 'go back to their huts,' and saying a group of Haitian immigrants 'all have AIDS,'" according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit also notes Trump's recent private meeting with legislators in which he reportedly called Haiti and other TPS nations "shithole countries." According to the lawsuit, TPS is set to end for Haiti on July 22, 2019, and for El Salvador on Sept. 9, 2019. The suit states there are 242,900 Salvadoran immigrants in the United States covered by the policy with jobs, homes and an estimated 192,700 U.S.-born children, according to the lawsuit. There are 93,500 immigrants from Haiti in the country covered by the program with an estimated 27,000 U.S. citizen children. "Termination of TPS for El Salvador and Haiti would wreak havoc on the lives of hundreds of thousands of people," according to the lawsuit. "As the individual plaintiffs' experiences reflect, entrepreneurs will lose their businesses, property owners will lose their family homes and families with U.S. citizen children will be torn apart." The suit lists claims for equal protection and due process violations. The suit also seeks a declaratory judgment, and asks for a writ compelling the defendants to carry out all nondiscretionary duties required by the U.S. Constitution and federal law. Katie Waldman, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security, declined to comment Thursday, saying the matter is pending litigation. The lawsuit comes one month after the NAACP sued DHS over its Haiti immigration policy. Similar to the lawsuit filed Thursday, the NAACP also cited the president's remarks about immigrants. The NAACP lawsuit was filed in Maryland and alleges government officials failed to follow the normal decision-making process when considering whether to renew the TPS granted to Haitian immigrants since an earthquake rocked the country in 2010.