MIAMI (AP) — The NAACP has sued the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, citing President Donald Trump's disparaging comments about immigrants and their home countries as evidence of racial discrimination influencing his administration's decision to end protections for roughly 60,000 Haitians.
In a lawsuit filed Wednesday in Maryland federal court, the NAACP and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund said Homeland Security officials failed to follow the normal decision-making process when considering whether to renew the temporary protected status granted to Haitian immigrants since a devastating earthquake struck the Caribbean country in 2010.
Instead of reviewing facts about conditions in Haiti since the earthquake, including an ongoing cholera outbreak and destruction from Hurricane Matthew in 2016, Homeland Security officials sought to bolster stereotypes about blacks and immigrants committing crimes and receiving public assistance, according to the lawsuit.
The temporary protected status allowing Haitians to legally live and work in the U.S. after the 2010 earthquake had been renewed repeatedly, to the chagrin of critics who said the humanitarian measure never intended to allow immigrants to establish roots in this country.
The Trump administration announced in November that Haitians with the protected status would have until July 2019 to get their affairs in order and return home.
The lawsuit cites a 2017 report from The Associated Press detailing U.S. immigration officials' attempts to find data on Haitians with protected status committing crimes or receiving public assistance. It also quotes separate reports that Trump said thousands of Haitians who came to the U.S. in 2017 "all have AIDS," and that he used vulgar language to question why the country needed more immigrants from Haiti or from African countries instead of from countries like Norway.
Trump's comments on immigration from his presidential campaign, including statements about "bad hombres" he would expel from the country, also were cited by the lawsuit, along with reports that former Homeland Security Acting Secretary Elaine Duke was being pressured by administration officials to rescind temporary protected status for immigrants from Honduras.
The NAACP Legal Defense Fund has been a separate organization from the NAACP since 1957. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the NAACP and its members with protected status, names Duke and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielson as defendants.
"President Trump has made clear that he wishes to reduce the number of immigrants of color to the United States. The rescission of Haiti's (temporary protected status) is part of that agenda," the lawsuit said.
Homeland Security spokeswoman Katie Waldman said in an email Thursday the agency does not comment on pending litigation.
This story has been clarified to reflect that the NAACP and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund are separate entities.