Bay State attorneys are suing President Trump and the Department of Homeland Security for rescinding the temporary protective statuses of thousands of local immigrants from El Salvador and Haiti, arguing that vulgar comments the president made last month suggest the order is racist and unconstitutional.

“Today we are drawing a line in the sand and saying that governmental policy cannot be based on bias and discrimination,” said Oren Sellstrom, an attorney with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, which filed the complaint.

The committee alleges Trump showed he was racist against immigrants from countries with largely nonwhite populations during an Oval Office meeting in January, when he reportedly called Haiti a “s—hole country” and praised immigrants from predominantly white Norway.

Weeks later, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen announced the administration would terminate temporary protective status for Haitian immigrants on July 22, 2019, and Salvadoran immigrants in September of next year. Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Costanzo Duke is also named as a defendant.

More than 12,000 TPS beneficiaries live in Massachusetts, according to federal data. El Salvador and Haiti gained temporary protective status in 2001 and 2010, respectively, after both countries suffered devastating earthquakes.

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Eight local recipients are named in the filing.

Among them is Juan Carlos Vidal, who said, “I worry about my business. I worry about my family.”

Vidal, 35, left El Salvador in 2001 and now runs four local restaurants. He lives in Revere with his two children, ages 5 and 7, who are both U.S. citizens.

“I contribute much to this country and to the economy,” he said, “and the president does not appreciate that or respect that.”

In the 37-page court document, lawyers allege that forcing temporary protective status recipients back to El Salvador and Haiti “ratifies and legitimizes the notion that immigrants of color — particularly those deemed by President Trump to come from ‘s—hole countries’ — are worthy of lesser social stature.”


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