The Department of Homeland Security granted a 6-month extension to Haitian nationals, allowing them to live in America legally until January 2018. However, once that period is over, President Donald Trump’s administration could send more than 55,000 Haitians back to a crisis-plagued country that’s still battling food insecurity and political instability.
The only other option most Haitian nationals would have would be staying in the U.S. as undocumented immigrants.
“I believe there are indications that Haiti — if its recovery from the 2010 earthquake continues at pace — may not warrant further. . . extension past January 2018,” said Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly in a statement, adding he would “monitor conditions” in the country and that the immigrants should prepare to return home to one of the poorest nations.
That is not it. As The Washington Post reported, only Haitians who were in the United States by Jan. 12, 2011 were eligible to apply for protected status.
Although the Trump administration has up to 60 days before the 2018 deadline to announce whether it plans to extend the program, the DHS has made its stance on the matter rather clear.
“We are strongly encouraging current TPS recipients to take advantage of this six-month period to resolve their affairs, to obtain travel documentation,” explained a senior DHS official. “By the name of ‘temporary protected status,’ it’s not supposed to be permanent…It can’t continue in perpetuity.”
Haiti has seen its share of tragedy, and many of its residents have fled over the years as a result. Now, thousands may face deportation and could end up back in the country whose economy has yet to recover from the 2010 earthquake — a disaster that may have killed nearly 100,000 people.
Ever since a temporary protected status (TPS) was granted in 2010, up to 55,000 Haitians have made the United States their home.
Unfortunately, most of these Haitian migrants are now bracing for what could eventually lead to mass deportation — unless President Donald Trump doesn't take the advice given by one of his officials, The Independent reports.
Haiti is currently suffering through a cholera epidemic and a sexual abuse scandal that put the focus on United Nations peacekeepers in the region. But that's not all. The economy in the country has suffered so deeply that 3.2 million Haitians now suffer with food insecurity.
But political uncertainty is also an issue, as the country was forced to go through a postponing of its latest presidential election after many believed votes to have been fraudulent.
Despite the fact that the average per capita annual income in the tiny Caribbean country doesn't exceed $1,700, James McCament, Trump's acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, is urging the current administration to bring an end to the TPS status.
If McCament has his way, Haitians who call the United States their home would lose their legal status, not being able to work and provide for their families.
“Anxiety is extremely high. They are calling me and asking me what they should do,” said Emmanuel Depas, former president of the Haitian American Lawyers Association of New York. “The temporary status is not necessarily a path to a green card, but it gives people the right to work here.”
In the scenario envisioned by McCament, families could be split, as many children born in America would end up seeing their parents leaving for Haiti, where job prospects and living conditions would force them to be subject to great hardship. With thousands of Haitians being sent back, the nation that is currently struggling with cholera, no health care, and crumbling infrastructure, would also have a hard time welcoming them back.
In his letter urging the Trump administration to tackle the TPS problem, McCament says that after a review of Hatians' situation in the country, conditions “no longer support its designation for TPS.”
“Although Hurricane Matthew recently caused a deterioration of conditions in Haiti’s south-west peninsula, overall conditions in the country have continued on an upward trajectory since the 2010 earthquake,” he wrote to Secretary of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly. “The institutional capacity of Haitian government to respond to the lingering effects of the earthquake remain weak, but the [U.S.] government is actively working to strengthen the Haitian civil service and government service delivery.”
According to Kelly's office, he has not made a decision on this subject.
Despite the rosy picture painted by McCament, Haiti remains the Western Hemisphere's poorest country — and America may have a lot do with it.
Over the years, the United States has intervened heavily in the country's politics, and is responsible in part for bringing political instability once democratically-elected Jean Bertrand Aristide lost his power in a coup backed by the CIA.
The U.S. government has also been part of scandals involving projects to rebuild the country that left countless Haitians without the homes or jobs they were promised.
If anything, the United States has a moral obligation to the people of Haiti, so putting an end to the TPS program is not only an ineffective way of helping these migrants, it's also a refusal to admit our role in destabilizing the country in some way or another.
As the idea to end TPS is attacked by both Republicans and Democrats in Congress, McCament may have to work harder to see his plan come to fruition, at least that's what we hope.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters