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Lawsuit: Trump immigration policy racially biased

  • Juan Carlos Vidal, a restaurant owner from El Salvador who has two U.S. citizen children, takes questions from members of the media during a news conference Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018, in Boston. Haitian and Salvadoran immigrants sued President Donald Trump on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018, arguing that the Republican administration's decision to end special protections shielding them from deportation was racially motivated. (AP Photo/Steven Senne) Steven Senne

  • Will Arias, right, a Salvadoran immigrant who currently lives in Everett, Mass., takes questions from members of the media during a news conference Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018, in Boston. Haitian and Salvadoran immigrants sued President Donald Trump on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018, arguing that the Republican administration's decision to end special protections shielding them from deportation was racially motivated. Attorney Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal is seated left. (AP Photo/Steven Senne) Steven Senne



Associated Press
Thursday, February 22, 2018

BOSTON — Haitian and Salvadoran immigrants sued President Donald Trump on Thursday, arguing that the Republican administration’s decision to end special protections shielding them from deportation was racially motivated.

The lawsuit filed in federal court in Boston seeks to block the administration from terminating temporary protected status for thousands of immigrants from Haiti and El Salvador. It claims Trump’s move to rescind the program was rooted in animus against immigrants of color, citing comments he made on the campaign trial and in office.

“Today we are drawing a line in the sand and saying that governmental policy cannot be based in bias and discrimination,” said Oren Sellstrom, litigation director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, which filed the complaint.

Temporary protected status provides safe havens for people from countries experiencing armed conflicts, natural disasters and other challenges. The program has been continuously extended for Haitians since a 2010 earthquake. Protections for El Salvadorans have been in place since earthquakes devastated the country in 2001.

In January, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said it was the program for Salvadoran immigrants, giving them until Sept. 9, 2019, to leave the U.S. or face deportation. Months earlier, the administration terminated the protection for Haitians, requiring them to leave or adjust their legal status by July 22, 2019, and for Nicaraguans, giving them until Jan. 5, 2019. A decision is expected later this year for Honduran immigrants.

The Department of Homeland Security has said that conditions in Haiti have improved significantly and the country is now able to “safely receive traditional levels of returned citizens.” The Trump administration said last month that El Salvador has received enough international aid to recover from the earthquake, and homes, schools and hospitals there have been rebuilt.

The lawsuit calls the administration’s stated reasons for ending the protections “nothing but a thin pretextual smoke screen for a racially discriminatory immigration agenda.”