NAACP sues over plan to end protections for Haitians in U.S.

Image: Dept. Of Homeland Security HQ
A U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) sign lies at the agency's headquarters on December 11, 2014 in Washington. Copyright Bloomberg Bloomberg via Getty Images
By Phil Helsel with NBC News
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The NAACP on Wednesday announced a lawsuit seeking to block plans to end temporary protected status for Haitians in the U.S. following the 2010 earthquake.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has filed a lawsuit seeking to block the Trump administration's plans to end temporary protected status for Haitians, the group said Wednesday.

The NAACP said that the planned endof the "temporary protected status" for Haitians who were allowed entry to the U.S. following a devastating earthquake in 2010 "discriminates against immigrants of color"and violates protections of due process and equal protection under the Fifth Amendment.

"The decision by the Department of Homeland Security to rescind TPS status for Haitian immigrants was infected by racial discrimination," Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc., said in a statement.

Then Department of Homeland Security acting director Elaine Duke announced in November that the protections will come to an end on July 22, 2019.

The department said at the time that conditions in Haiti now allow for the safe return of nationals of that county and that the "extraordinary but temporary conditions caused by the 2010 earthquake no longer exist."

Approximately 46,000 Haitians were allowed to enter the U.S. and work without fear of deportation, according to the Pew Research Center. Other reports and officials have put the number as high as 60,000. The lawsuit says rescinding TPS could expose 58,000 Haitians to deportation.

The NAACP lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland. It seeks to have the DHS' order blocked.

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The lawsuit comes almost two weeks after President Donald Trump reportedly used the term "shithole countries" to refer to African nations during a meeting that included discussions about Haiti and El Salvador. Critics have called the reported comment racist. Trump has denied that he insulted Haitiansand said "this was not the language used," and he has denied being a racist.

The NAACP referenced those reported comments in announcing the lawsuit Wednesday. Protected status has been extended multiple times. The group says that a 2010 cholera outbreak and a Category 4 hurricane in 2016 have exacerbated the problems in Haiti.

The magnitude-7.0 earthquake that struck Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010, is blamed for an estimated more than 220,000 deaths. Some estimates say the earthquake resulted in around 300,000 deaths.

The Department of Homeland Security earlier this month also announced that it plans to end temporary protected status for people who came to the U.S. from El Salvador under the program. El Salvador suffered an earthquake in 2001. The protection is scheduled to end on Sept. 9, 2019.

Related: Dashed hopes, upended lives as Trump ends protection for Salvadorans

DHS Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen said in a statement that "the original conditions caused by the 2001 earthquakes no longer exist" and that by statute TPS must be terminated. Around 200,000 Salvadorans in the U.S. could be affected.

The DHS did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment on the NAACP lawsuit.

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