Why ending Temporary Protective Status for our Haitian community is the wrong decision

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On Monday, the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Elaine Duke announced her decision to terminate Temporary Protective Status (TPS) for Haitians with a delayed effective date of July 22, 2019. Currently, an estimated 59,000 Haitians are living in the United States with TPS, a special immigration status that is meant to be temporary in nature and given to nationals of countries where the U.S. feels that it would be inhumane to send them back due to natural disasters or civil unrest. Haitians were granted TPS in 2010 after the devastating earthquake that killed over 200,000 thousand people.

According to Secretary Duke’s announcement, DHS reviewed the conditions upon which Haiti’s original designation were based and found that those extraordinary circumstances caused by the 2010 earthquake no longer exist.

But to say that Haiti has completely recovered from the devastating earthquake is laughable!

Haiti is currently facing a humanitarian crisis. A possible mass deportation of Haitians in 2019 from the United States will crumble the country’s vulnerable infrastructure. Even though the earthquake was seven years ago now, Haiti still has not recovered. Billions of dollars were pledged for the rebuilding of Haiti from the international community. However, the money was either mismanaged or used for other purposes. After the earthquake, UN soldiers dumped human remains in a river causing a cholera outbreak. Cholera has killed 9,393 people in Haiti, and left 790,840 people sick as of August 20, 2016.

In September 2016, Category Four Hurricane Matthew hit the southern area of Haiti. Over 1,000 people died, and more than 20,000 homes were destroyed. A larger outbreak of cholera was expected because of the hurricane. The 2017 Hurricanes Irma and Maria both caused agricultural and livestock losses in the already fragile nation. To say that Haiti is stable and ready to safely receive traditional levels of deportees is a clear disregard for human suffering.

DHS’s assertions that conditions have improved enough in Haiti to warrant a change in policy are misguided. When Trump was running for president, he came to Little Haiti in Miami and told the Haitian community, “I really want to be your biggest champion.” Now, as President, this is the time for him to keep his promise and use his political leadership to create a pathway to citizenship not only for Haitians but for all TPS holders.

There are currently more than 300,000 people with TPS in the United States. Some have resided in the U.S. for 19 years! They contribute to the economy. They pay their taxes. They raise American families with over 100,000 U.S born children. TPS holders are vetted every year. They have no criminal records. Even under President Trump’s administration, they do not rank high for removal priorities.

The ASPIRE Act, which has been introduced to Congress by representatives including Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, “would allow every person covered by TPS on Jan. 1, 2017, to apply for permanent resident before a judge by proving that they would face extreme hardship if they were forced to return to their home country,” reported The Miami Herald.

At this time, it makes both logical and economic sense to renew TPS for TPS holders up until legislation passes that would offer a long-term status to these individuals. It will cost taxpayers more money to deport these low priority immigrants than it would to legalize them.

Are you living in Miami and directly impacted by this decision? E-mail us at [email protected] to share your story.