NAACP Legal Defense Fund sues feds over treatment of Haitian immigrants


By Frederick H. Lowe

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) has sued the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, its current and former directors for rescinding the Temporary Protective Status of Haitian immigrants, arguing that the order violates the U.S. Constitution because it is grounded in racial prejudice mirroring President Donald Trump’s negative views of black immigrants.

LDF filed the lawsuit January 24 in the U.S. District Court of Maryland on behalf of the NAACP against Elaine C. Duke, the former acting secretary of DHS and Kirstjen Nielsen, DHS’s current secretary. The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund is a separate organization from the NAACP.

The lawsuit seeks to enjoin DHS’s November 2017 decision to rescind Temporary Protective Status (TPS) for Haitian immigrants who moved to the United States, following a deadly earthquake on January 12, 2010, that killed hundreds of thousands of Haitians, left millions homeless and nearly destroyed Port-au-Prince, the country’s capital.

In addition, Haiti’s recovery efforts have been hobbled by the outbreak of cholera in October 2010 and a category 4 hurricane in October 2016, according to the lawsuit.

Because of the damage caused by the earthquake and hurricane, Haiti does not have adequate housing and enough food for its citizens. The return of additional Haitians would cause more serious problems for the country.

U.S. Senator Ben Cardin, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, wrote in a letter dated November 8, 2017, that since the 2010 hurricane, Haiti’s capacity to manage repatriation efforts have faced substantial setbacks.

Janet Napolitano, then the secretary of Homeland Secretary, granted Haitian immigrants TPS status on January 21, 2010, which was for 18 months. On May 17, 2011, Napolitano extended TPS another 18 months.

Jeh Johnson, Napolitano’s successor, extended TPS another 18 months from January 23, 2016 through July 22, 2017.

The Department of Homeland Security terminated TPS for an estimated  58,000 Haitian families who must leave the U.S. on or before July 22, 2019.

Department officials claim it made its decision following an objective review, but LDF argues the decision was spurious.

“In early 2017, DHS officials searched for evidence that Haitians in the United States were criminals receiving public assistance,” according to the lawsuit.

In addition, the lawsuit states President Trump has shown antipathy toward black immigrants, preferring immigrants from majority white countries.

Trump recently referred to Haiti and unnamed African countries as “shitholes.” In addition, Trump said all Haitians are infected with AIDS.” He said he wanted immigrants from Norway.

LDF wants the court to declare that the Department of Homeland Security’s actions to rescind TPS are a violation of the U.S. Constitution and contrary to the laws of the United States.

“DHS’s actions are consistent with the Trump Administration’s racialized goals concerning immigration,” the lawsuit argues.


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