BOOTED OUT: U.S. ends protection for Haitian earthquake victims

Nearly 60,000 Haitians who came to the United States to escape devastation from an earthquake seven years ago are being ordered back to the French-speaking Caribbean nation.

TPS renewThe administration of President Donald Trump last month gave Haitians living under Temporary Protected Status (TPS) 18 months to leave the U.S.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, the “extraordinary conditions” which caused the U.S. to grant TPS following the 2010 ‘quake “no longer exist,” meaning there is no need for the Haitians living under that status to remain in the U.S.

“Since the 2010 earthquake, the number of displaced people in Haiti has decreased by 97 percent,” Elaine Duke, the department’s acting homeland security secretary declared in a statement issued late last month. “Significant steps have been taken to improve the stability and quality of life for Haitian citizens, and Haiti is able to safely receive traditional levels of returned citizens.”

TRANSITION

TPS for Haitians will expire July 22, 2019. The Department Homeland Security believes the 18 months will allow for “orderly transition” of the Haitians back to their homeland, including the ability to “arrange their departure” and for Haiti’s government to make adequate preparations for their return.

In 1990 TPS was created to prevent the deportation of foreigners who came to the U.S. to escape devastation from natural disasters or wars in their homelands. Some 300,000 with TPS are believed to be in the U.S., most from Nicaragua, El Salvador, Haiti and Honduras.

But while U.S. administrations have generally renewed TPS for foreigners, the Trump administration has stressed the program is meant to be temporary relief for victims and not a path to permanent U.S. residence.

The majority of Haitians believed to be affected by the latest U.S. decision reportedly live in Florida. Political representatives from both major parties in the state – Republicans and Democrats – have expressed disagreement with the Department of Homeland Security’s decision, claiming conditions in Haiti may not have been improved sufficiently to send back those with TPS.

BLOWBACK

Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio recently called for Haitians’ TPS to be renewed, claiming if they are sent back to the Caribbean they “will face dire conditions, including lack of housing, inadequate health services and low prospects of employment.”

Senator Bob Mendendez, a Democrat from New Jersey, blasted the Trump administration’s decision to end TPS for Haitians.

“Let there be no mistake, revoking TPS in the name of nativism is a self-serving move to strip legal status from entire communities, force them into the shadows of society, and ultimately subject law abiding immigrants to deportation,” Menendez noted in a statement last month. “The fact is Haiti remains the poorest country in the Americas and one of the poorest countries in the world, and the country is in no position to accept the return of thousands of nationals currently protected under TPS, jeopardizing the vital economic support of $1.3 billion remittances coming from the U.S., especially after recent destruction caused by hurricanes Irma and Maria.

“This decision will not only have a seriously destabilizing effect and impair Haiti’s fragile recovery efforts, but it further harms our ability to be an effective leader on the global stage by demonizing people from different countries. But faced by a lack of ‘bad hombres’, the Trump administration is shamelessly creating deportable immigrants out of thin air and tearing apart American families - specifically 27,000 U.S. citizen children who have TPS parents.” 

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