Immigration Activists Play Race Card In Lawsuit Over Trump’s Decision To End TPS

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Will Racke Immigration and Foreign Policy Reporter
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  • Immigration activists sued the Trump administration over winding down temporary protections
  • The Trump administration is rescinding Temporary Protected Status for Haitian and Salvadoran nationals
  • Roughly 60,000 Haitians and 200,000 Salvadorans are currently living in the U.S. under TPS

Immigration activists sued the Trump administration on Thursday over its decision to wind down temporary protections for Haitian and Salvadoran nationals, saying the move was motivated by the racial animus toward immigrants.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Boston, aims to block the administration from rescinding the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for Haiti and El Salvador. The lawsuit claims President Donald Trump cancelled TPS because of racial prejudice toward the people who had received protection, alluding to his past comments during the campaign and while in office.

The suit was brought by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice and Centro Presente, groups that advocate for more lenient immigration policies and enforcement.

“The president has made no secret of his racist views,” said Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal, executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee, in a statement, according to masslive.com. “The administration’s decision to terminate TPS for El Salvador and Haiti manifests these discriminatory views.”

TPS is a humanitarian relief program that offers work permits and a temporary reprieve from deportation to foreign nationals of countries affected by war, natural disaster, or some other extraordinary crisis. Contrary to popular misconception, it is not intended to protect people fleeing from their home countries, but rather foreign nationals who were already in the U.S. when the designation was granted.

The Trump administration cancelled TPS for Haiti in November and followed suit with El Salvador in January. Roughly 60,000 Haitians and 200,000 Salvadorans, most of them illegal immigrants, are currently living in the U.S. under TPS.

El Salvador originally received TPS directly from Congress in 1990 when the country was in the midst of a brutal civil war. Former President George W. Bush’s administration subsequently granted a TPS designation to El Salvador in 2001 after a series of earthquakes rocked the country.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen determined that conditions in El Salvador have improved to the point where it is safe for TPS recipients to return, ending the need for continued relief. The decision mirrored a similar determination for Haiti, which received TPS in 2010 following a devastating earthquake.


The plaintiffs claim the administration’s decisions on TPS stem from Trump’s supposedly racist views of Hispanic and black immigrants, not a neutral assessment of conditions in Haiti and El Salvador. Their lawsuit cites media reports that Trump said Haitians who received visas to enter the U.S. last year “all have AIDS” and that Haiti and African countries are “shitholes.” It also refers to Trump’s campaign announcement, in which he said some Mexican immigrants were “bringing crime” and were “rapists.”

As its legal basis, the lawsuit contends the Trump administration violated the plaintiffs’ Fifth Amendment right to due process, which prohibits “irrational government action.” The plaintiffs are asking the court for a nationwide injunction against implementing the end of TPS for Haiti and El Salvador.

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