By Michael Derek Roberts, Associate Editor
For about 50,000 Haitians now living in the United States under the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) fear and desperation is now the norm. That’s because on April 20 United States President Donald J. Trump’s immigration department recommended
that this program be ended. Recall that those Haitians affected by the measure have been living here since the devastating earthquake that destroyed this Caribbean nation in 2010. Former President Barack Obama granted temporary relief status to undocumented Haitians who arrived in the United States before 2011.
Since that time Haiti has undergone not only a snail’s pace of re-development, but faced a number of unfortunate disasters. To date, a cholera outbreak that have now been classified by health officials as an epidemic has killed 10,000 Haitians, young and old – and counting. And add to this last October’s, Hurricane Matthew hit this poorest country in the Western hemisphere very hard causing more death, destruction, and endemic poverty in its wake. Based on these humanitarian grounds TPS has been extended several times. It is now set to expire on July 22, 2017, something that worries Brooklyn Congresswoman Yvette Clarke.
“We are alarmed over media reports that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is seeking evidence of crimes committed by Haitians in advance of the July
expiration of Haiti’s current Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation,” Congresswoman Clarke told Caribbean Times
“This is part of an unfortunate continuation of then-Candidate Trump and now
the Trump Administration’s efforts to promote a false stereotype of the criminality of immigrants as evidenced by the creation of the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement Office (VOICE) at the Department of Homeland Security. The Administration has cast immigrants as drug dealers, sexual predators, and terrorists who are a drain on our society. However, the fact is that immigrants are actually less likely to commit
crimes than non-immigrants and higher immigration rates are associated with lower crime rates. Moreover, immigrants of all backgrounds contribute to our economy.
For example, Haitian TPS-enrollees contribute nearly $35 million each year for Social Security benefits they do not receive,” she added.
If TPS is not renewed then the fate of these Haitians will boil down to President Trump taking the decision to kick them out of the United States. Brooklyn community leaders and lawmakers worry about the anti-immigrant climate stoked by the Trump Administration and the ensuing fear that now grips
the immigrant community in general, and Haitian community in particular.
“My people are very, very fearful because this is an extremely difficult situation. This is a vulnerable community that needs protection.
TPS is a relief mechanism and a humane approach to those who have suffered as a result of the earthquake. TPS allows poor Haitians living here to help their families back in Haiti. I urge President Trump to review and renew TPS. It’s the right, decent, and humane thing to do,” said Mercedes Narcisse, a Haitian community leader in Brooklyn.
In Haitian communities across the United States people are fearful because TPS – that mandates undocumented Haitians that benefit from the program register with the Federal government – could be used as the vehicle to deport them. President Trump’s constant threat to round up and deport undocumented immigrants from the United States has hit home in the Haitian community. Given the change in administration, TPS, like registering for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) for many undocumented Mexican families, has meant that it places a target on their heads. TPS and DACA, makes undocumented immigrants visible to the authorities and thus more “deportable.”
For many Haitians this particular threat represents a betrayal of sorts. Unlike Mexican Americans, specifically targeted by then-candidate Trump, Haitian Americans, particularly in Florida, were actively courted by Republican strategists and largely left alone. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Florida is home to an estimated 424,000 people of Haitian descent. Many Haitian community leaders and organizations were early backers of former President Barack Obama, the country’s first Black president.
The flirtation with the Republican Party during the 2016 presidential elections had little to do with Barack Obama or Donald Trump, but a lot to do with Bill and Hillary Clinton. Many Haitians are still very angry about the role that they played in the rebuilding of their country after the 2010 earthquake.
The implications of ending TPS are many. It would be disastrous to a community still traumatized by loss of livelihood and family.
It would cause a deep fissure in the Haitian community, ripping apart families, and punishing people who endured sub-minimum wage jobs because they believed the United States government would in the long run be fair and just. And it’s especially important because of the causes of Haitian migration –endemic and systemic violence and exploitative working conditions that ultimately benefit U.S. companies.