The NAACP has filed suit in federal court against the Trump administration, claiming it illegally discriminated against Haitian immigrants.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday on behalf of the NAACP by its Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, claims that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s decision to rescind the Temporary Protective Status (TPS) designation for Haitian immigrants discriminates against immigrants of color, in violation of the Fifth Amendment.
The civil rights organization said in the charging documents that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), former acting DHS Secretary Elaine C. Duke, and current DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielson took irrational and discriminatory government action, denying Haitian immigrants their right to due process and equal protection under the Fifth Amendment.
The NAACP, acting on behalf of its Haitian members who are TPS protected, argues that DHS intended to discriminate against Haitian immigrants living in the U.S. because of their race and national origin.
“This is a simple case. Our democracy rests on the bedrock principle that every person is equal before the law,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. “Governmental decisions that target people based on racial discrimination violate our Constitution.
“The decision by the Department of Homeland Security to rescind TPS status for Haitian immigrants was infected by racial discrimination,” Ifill said. “Every step taken by the department to reach this decision reveals that far from a rational and fact-based determination, this decision was driven by calculated, determined and intentional discrimination against Haitian immigrants.”
Derrick Johnson, NAACP president and CEO, said the department’s action is “clearly racially motivated.”
“The U.S. Constitution prohibits singling out certain immigrants for harsh treatment based on their skin color and/or ethnicity,” Johnson said. “But more than that, basic fairness militates against this draconian action taken by DHS under the direction of President Trump.”
The lawsuit seeks to enjoin DHS’s November decision to rescind Temporary Protective Status for Haitian immigrants, as it reflects “an egregious departure from the TPS statute’s requirements and the intent to discriminate on the basis of race.”
The lawsuit also asks the court to declare that DHS violated the Constitution and the rule of law in rescinding the TPS, and to declare the action void and without legal force.
As evidence of the DHS’s intent to discriminate, the lawsuit cites public reporting that the department sought crime data on Haitians with TPS, as well as information on how many Haitian nationals were receiving public benefits. The lawsuit alleges that the department’s efforts to gather such data “trades on false anti-Black stereotypes about criminality and exploitation of public benefits, and suggests the effort to manufacture a public safety rationale for the planned rescission.”
The complaint further alleges that President Trump’s public hostility toward immigrants of color was a contributing factor in the decision, citing a recently reported White House meeting with several U.S. senators in which Trump allegedly disparaged a draft immigration plan that protected people from Haiti, El Salvador and some African countries, while professing his preference for immigrants from mostly white European countries.
“It’s disheartening to see the Haitian community targeted and mistreated in this way, but it also is not surprising,” said Raymond Audain, senior counsel at LDF. “This decision reflects a shameful and persistent pattern of conduct by this administration in which racial stereotypes drive policy decisions.”
Haitian immigrants first received Temporary Protective Status in 2010 as part of the Department of Homeland Security’s efforts to assist the country after it was struck by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake, one of the deadliest earthquakes in history.
Haiti’s TPS designations have been extended multiple times due to many factors, including multiple hurricanes and a cholera outbreak. On Nov. 20, the DHS announced its plans to terminate temporary protective status for Haiti, which would go into effect in May 2019, ignoring bipartisan pleas to extend the TPS designation.
“Our great nation fought a civil war to establish the bedrock principle that the government may not discriminate against any person, whether citizen or non-citizen, based on that person’s race or ethnicity,” said Bradford M. Berry, NAACP general counsel. “The NAACP stands ready to challenge any violation of that principle, as today’s action clearly demonstrates.”
The full complaint can be read here.