President Donald Trump’s comments last week that the United States should try to attract immigrants from places like Norway instead of “shithole countries” like Haiti or El Salvador weren’t just racist. They also expose his immigration policies to challenge in federal court, and may even allow some of the people he’s trying to deport to stay in the U.S.
Here’s why: Trump made the “shithole countries” remark while defending his decision to cancel Temporary Protected Status ― a designation that offers deportation relief and work authorization to people from countries afflicted by natural disasters or war ― for hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan.
Stripping people of TPS is well within the president’s authority. But if Trump did so with the intention to discriminate against them because of their national origin or race (most Haitians are black, while most Norwegians are white), his administration may once again find itself in federal court defending the constitutionality of its actions.
Immigration lawyers who defend people facing deportation will be sure to cite Trump’s comments, too.
“I can guarantee I’ll be making an argument that this administration is discriminating based on national origin and race when I have a client who happens to be from Haiti, El Salvador, or Africa,” said Luis Mancheno, an attorney for Bronx Defenders, a nonprofit legal services group. “Or, honestly, anyone who’s not from Norway.”
No group has yet announced a legal challenge to the Trump administration’s decision to cancel TPS for countries he reportedly derided as “shitholes.” But lawyers told HuffPost the comments could be used as evidence to support a claim that Trump canceled the program with discriminatory intent.