Attorneys for the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a brief on Sept. 19 with the Second Circuit Court of Appeals asking a panel of federal judges to overturn a circuit court’s nationwide injunction preventing the Trump Administration from revoking Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitian refugees.
In an attempt to refute claims that the administration’s decision was based — at least in part on — President Donald Trump’s antipathy for non-white countries, the DOJ said Trump referring to Haiti as a “shithole” had nothing to do with its citizens race or ethnicity.
The brief argues that the District Court for the Eastern District of New York erred in concluding that the president’s statement could be construed as evidence of racial animus, claiming he was merely referring to the conditions within those countries, not their populace.
DOJ attorneys said that plaintiff have “failed to support their claim that the Secretary’s decision to terminate TPS for Haiti was motivated by racial or ethnic animus on the part of the President himself”; they were also quick to say how “any statement about ‘shithole countries’ […] should be understood”:
The offered statements, construed from an objective legal perspective, reflect the current Administration’s focus on immigration policies that benefit Americans rather than aliens, and not unconstitutional bias. Any statement about “shithole countries” and about Haitians having AIDS should be understood as a denigrating reference to the conditions and problems in the country, rather than a commentary on the race or ethnicity of the country’s inhabitants. Indeed, such an objective interpretation of the alleged statements is compelled by the presumption of regularity to which the President is entitled as the head of a coordinate branch. In any event, given the respect that is owed to a coordinate branch of government and the lack of evidence to connect the President’s statements to the Secretary’s TPS determination, this Court need not wade into the question of what can or cannot be inferred from those statements.
The brief did not elaborate as to how the president’s question — “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here” — could be construed objectively, as it contains no statement of fact. Instead, they argued that the President is entitled to such an interpretation based on a “presumption of regularity.”