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Lawyers’ Committee sues Trump admin. on protected status decision

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The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, in partnership with the immigrant advocacy group Centro Presente, recently filed a federal lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s decision to terminate Temporary Protected Status for Salvadoran and Haitian immigrants.

The suit states that defendants President Donald Trump, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Secretary of the DHS Kirstjen Nielsen and Deputy Secretary of the DHS Elaine Constanzo Duke violated the Constitution when they moved to end the humanitarian program that protects eligible immigrants from returning to countries with natural disasters, civil unrest or health crises.

The plaintiffs, eight TPS recipients from Haiti and El Salvador, say the TPS decision violates the Fifth Amendment and discriminates on the basis of race, ethnicity and/or national origin.

Lawyers’ Committee attorney Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal said in a press release, “The administration’s decision to terminate TPS for El Salvador and Haiti manifests these discriminatory views. … The Constitution does not allow governmental decision-making that is infected by this type of racial bias.”

“Many of the plaintiffs have lived in the United States for decades,” said Patricia Montes, executive director of Centro Presente, in a press release. “If TPS is terminated, they are at risk of losing everything — the homes and the businesses they have built, the families they have raised and the money they have invested into their communities.”

As of now, TPS is set to terminate for Haitians on July 22, 2019, and for El Salvadorans on Sept. 9, 2019.

According to numbers provided by the Lawyers’ Committee and Centro Presente, there are 242,900 Salvadoran immigrants in the U.S. with TPS who hold jobs, own homes and have an estimated 192,700 U.S. citizen children. There are 93,500 immigrants from Haiti in the U.S. with TPS who also work and have established homes here with an estimated 27,000 U.S. citizen children.

The Fifth Amendment ensures equal protection and due process for all, and prohibits irrational government behavior. The complaint document states that the President’s viewpoints and comments are indicative of his discriminatory agenda.

Throughout his presidential campaign, Trump equated Mexicans and Latin Americans with rapists and criminals, and reportedly characterized TPS-designated countries such as Haiti and El Salvador as “sh*thole countries” and said that the U.S. should accept more immigrants from Norway, a predominantly white country, instead.

The plaintiffs also argue that that the administration and the DHS did not carefully consider and review conditions in Haiti and El Salvador, which have both been deemed as fitting TPS designation requirements for the past two decades, and have shown slow progress in recovering from natural disasters and civil unrest.

Chris Jean Baptiste, a 19-year-old Haitian immigrant, is one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. He has been a TPS recipient since 2010.

“This issue is more than just TPS getting removed,” Baptiste told the Banner in a phone interview. “Our president made open statements about certain countries being worse than others. It hurts us as a country.”

He added, “It’s like we stepped back in time.”

As a Milton High graduate and computer science major in community college, Baptiste said, “My life is here, my family is here, my friends are here. There’s a possibility that I can be sent to a country that I don’t even know.”

The other plaintiffs include Juan Carlos Vidal, a Salvadoran immigrant, entrepreneur and property owner from Revere; Mercedes Mata, a Salvadoran immigrant and homeowner from Leominster who works as a clerk for the Fitchburg Municipal Office; and Carolina Mata, an active member of Centro Presente and mother of two Massachusetts-born children.