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As the nine year anniversary of the earthquake that devastated Haiti looms tomorrow, the trial defending Haitian Temporary Protected Status (TPS) has ended. Jacqueline Charles at the Miami Herald gives a thorough summary of the TPS- centered trial, Saget et al v. Trump, that ended Thursday.
The trial, filed on behalf of three South Floridians, seven New Yorkers, the Haitian newspaper Haïti Liberté, and the Family Action Network Movement (FANM), aims to prove the Trump administration’s termination of TPS for Haiti was unlawful.
Charles’ highlights of the trial are excerpted below.
A federal trial in New York challenging the Trump administration’s decision to end Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, for thousands of Haitians, concluded Thursday with internal government emails showing that the administration was so determined to end the program that it ignored its own government’s research flagging health and safety concerns.
… Like the other suits representing Haitians as well as Salvadorans, Hondurans and Sudanese TPS holders, the New York suit argues that Duke violated procedures and TPS holders’ due process. The decision, the suit alleges, was also rooted in the president’s “racially discriminatory attitude toward all brown and black people.”
During Thursday’s closing arguments, attorney Howard Roin, one of several lawyers representing the plaintiffs, cited emails and other internal government documents, including Duke’s handwritten November 2017 notes, to bolster plaintiffs’ argument: that the White House was not interested in the facts about conditions in Haiti as DHS officials mulled over whether to continue to shield up to 60,000 Haitians from deportations, and Duke was under repeated pressure to terminate the program.
… Attorney Paromita Shah said the Haiti TPS termination decision was “prearranged, premeditated from the beginning,” and based on “racial animus.”
“Having a trial on that issue is significant because we know those comments were made in relation to TPS for Haitians,” she said. “There is a long history of bias against Haitians in our immigration system. But it is clear that this administration has at least a public record in making disparaging comments.”
… Lawyers also introduced into evidence a cable from the U.S. embassy in Port-au-Prince that concluded Haiti was not ready to receive TPS holders. The cable is among several from senior U.S. diplomats to top State Department officials that were disregarded despite the warning that the mass deportations of Central Americans and Haitians could destabilize the region and trigger a new surge of illegal immigration. Despite the cables, the administration went ahead with its termination decisions, lawyers said.
… Ellie Happel, a lawyer and expert witness, testified that the only reason official numbers show a significant drop in the tent city population is because camps were forcefully shut down by the Haitian government. The director of the Haiti Project at NYU School of Law’s Global Justice Clinic, Happel noted that the Haitian government had not kept its promise to rebuild housing after the quake.
… One of the longest testimonies came from Leon Rodriguez, the former director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in the Obama administration. During his more than four hours on the stand, Rodriguez testified that the Trump administration approach to TPS not only deviates from past practices, but is also illegal. Cissna, he said, had failed to consider the totality of Haiti’s circumstances, such as food insecurity and crime statistics, in determining if it could received its nationals back.
Asked directly by the judge whether Cissna’s recommendation violated the law, Rodriguez said “yes.”
The suit was filed on behalf of three South Floridians, seven New Yorkers, the weekly Brooklyn-based Haitian newspaper Haïti Liberté, and the Miami-based Haitian rights advocacy group FANM.
… The plaintiffs are asking the judge to find that DHS did not do an adequate review and must conduct a new review on whether Haiti can absorb the return of its immigrants. With four other lawsuits also awaiting a day in court, legal experts say any decision Kuntz makes, while not compulsory, will be “persuasive precedent.”
… In addition to the California and NAACP Legal Defense Fund suits, there are two others including one by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice. It filed suit on behalf of Salvadorans, Hondurans and Haitians in Boston federal court. The committee previously challenged the constitutionality of President Donald Trump’s executive order targeting sanctuary cities.