Jan. 25 (UPI) -- The NAACP is suing the Department of Homeland Security after a temporary residency program was cancelled that allowed more than 58,000 Haitians to live and work in the United States.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland on Wednesday, accuses the agency of discriminating on the basis of race and/or ethnicity.
The Caribbean nation has been in a state of devastation since a 2010 earthquake, one of the deadliest in history that killed thousands of Haitians and left millions homeless. Recovery efforts were thwarted by a subsequent cholera outbreak and a Category 4 hurricane in 2016, leading to a food and housing shortage.
The complaint alleges that President Donald Trump has a public hostility toward immigrants of color, which contributed to the decision to end the program. It cited a meeting earlier in the month that included a discussion of immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African nations and prompted Trump to ask, "Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?" The Washington Post first reported Trump's comments in a report earlier this month.
Also during the meeting the president asked, "Why do we need more Haitians?" A December New York Times article includes a suggestion from Trump that all Haitians have AIDS.
"President Trump has long made clear his antipathy towards Latin American and Black immigrants, and his preference for white immigrants," according to the complaint.
A statement by the NAACP said rescinding the Temporary Protective Status program is clearly racially motivated.
"The U.S. Constitution prohibits singling out certain immigrants for harsh treatment based on their skin color and/or ethnicity," said Derrick Johnson, NAACP president and CEO. "But more than that, basic fairness militates against this draconian action taken by DHS under the direction of President Trump."
Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc., said the decision to rescind the status for Haitian immigrants was "infected by racial discrimination."
"This is a simple case. Our democracy rests on the bedrock principle that every person is equal before the law. Governmental decisions that target people based on racial discrimination violate our Constitution," 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."