UUSC Responds to Six-Month TPS Extension for Haitians: Not Enough

Yesterday, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) revealed its decision to extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitian nationals in the United States for a mere six months, instead of the 18-month window normally granted. This announcement is in line with previous threats of Trump administration officials who have recommended terminating the program at the end of the six-month extension—potentially resulting in the deportation of the nearly 58,000 Haitian immigrants currently living with TPS in the United States. UUSC joins with Haitian and Black immigrant leaders and immigration advocacy groups, including our new partner the UndocuBlack Network, to demand an extension of TPS beyond January 2018.

The consequences of ending TPS status for Haitians will be swift and devastating—Haiti is still in the midst of a humanitarian emergency as it works to recover from a catastrophic 2010 earthquake, a cholera epidemic imported by U.N. peacekeeping forces, and a deadly hurricane last fall. Mass deportations of Haitians would cut off a critical lifeline for the Haitian economy, which currently receives about $1.3 billion a year in remittances from Haitians in the United States. The U.S. economy will also lose an estimated $2.8 billion in GDP over the next decade if this community is deported.

“Numbers cannot do justice, however, to the suffering that would be inflicted on thousands of families by a policy of expanded deportation and separation if TPS expires in six months,” says Hannah Hafter, UUSC Senior Program Leader for Activism. “Many Haitians with TPS have U.S. citizen children who were born in this country and know no other home. They are taxpayers, caregivers, parents, and employees whose loss would be felt by all.”

Our partners at the UndocuBlack Network have joined national efforts to renew TPS status for Haitians and, in alliance with the National Immigration Law Center, have helped to spearhead a recent push to uncover the truth about how the Trump administration made its TPS decision. Their recent refusal to renew TPS for three African countries impacted by the 2014 Ebola epidemic; reports that DHS has been requesting information on criminal offenses committed by Haitian TPS holders; and its renewed deportations to war-ravaged Somali, all point to a clear intention to stigmatize and expel immigrant communities of color.

The U.S. obligation to extend TPS for Haitians is more than a matter of humanitarian conscience. Meaningful extension of the TPS program offers a chance for the United States to do the right thing in a part of the world where, for too long, it has been complicit in generating the social problems that created a need for TPS in the first place. UUSC’s Haitian partners at the Papaye Peasant Movement (MPP), for instance, are working with communities directly impacted by U.S. trade policies and aid dumping, which in many places have devastated the local food economy, fueling the poverty and urban overcrowding that made the 2010 Haitian earthquake so deadly. MPP works to establish sustainable agriculture and recover food sovereignty so that Haitians can build a better future.

UUSC will continue to work with our partners to advance the human rights of Haitians at home and abroad, to call for a further extension of TPS, and to press for permanent legislative solutions that will allow all immigrant communities to live in safety and dignity.

Hurricane Matthew work on the ground

Background

In response to the devastation wrought by Hurricane Matthew in early October, UUSC is partnering with GARR (Groupe d’Appui au Rapatriés et Refugiés/Support Group for Refugees and Returnees) to provide humanitarian assistance, which includes cholera awareness and prevention, livelihood support, and human rights training to repatriated and stateless refugees living in camps at the Haiti-Dominican Republic border in Anse-a-Pitres, Haiti. GARR has long been a strong advocate at the national level, and we can expect the organization to be a leading voice on behalf of those most vulnerable if appropriate channels open in the future. 

The Situation at Anse-a-Pitres

The International Organization for Migration has previously attempted to relocate the camp-dwelling populations, but the sites have consistently been repopulated. When Hurricane Matthew struck, there were at least 750 individuals (including hundreds of children) living in tents and other temporary structures at Anse-a-Pitres. All of these individuals saw their shelters destroyed or severely damaged. Living conditions in the camps at Anse-a-Pitres, poor before Hurricane Matthew, have worsened since the hurricane – shelter, food, medical assistance, and drinking water are even more scarce than before. There is also an acute risk of cholera developing and spreading. Moreover, the scale of devastation following the hurricane, which has affected more than 1.4 million people, could lead to an increase in Haitian people attempting to cross the border into the Dominican Republic, which could in turn lead to further deportations and a swelling of border camps. 

About our Partner

GARR was formed in 1991 to provide more coordinated support and advocacy services for refugees deported back to Haiti. It is a highly respected, Haitian-led organization with deep experience responding to humanitarian disasters, including the 2010 earthquake and subsequent cholera outbreak. GARR also works alongside another UUSC partner, Zanmi Timoun, to support recently deported minors at the Haiti-Dominican Republic border in Belladere, Haiti. GARR currently runs the only shelter to which unaccompanied minors are given food, shelter, psychosocial support, and medical attention.

What you can do: The Haitian Immigration Crisis

We must act now to avert a U.S.-made disaster affecting thousands of Haitians

Background

On September 22, apparently in response to anti-immigrant political pressure, DHS revoked a policy that allowed survivors of the 2010 Haitian earthquake to enter and stay in the United States. Yesterday, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson affirmed that decision, stating, “the policy has not changed in light of Hurricane Matthew.” Although deportation flights have been temporarily halted, DHS officials are still arranging to deport Haitians from the United States. Haiti has said it does not have the capacity to receive them, even before the hurricane. Additionally, DHS policy puts families entering the United States at risk of being separated.

On Oct 12, 2016, the Department of Homeland Security announced that they will be temporarily suspending deportations to Haiti as a result of the damage Hurricane Matthew has done to the country. However, they stand behind the decision to increase deportations to Haiti and intend to keep thousands of non-criminal Haitian citizens in detention indefinitely until they renew deportations to Haiti.

With the loss in lives and property still being measured, this is no time to start deporting and detaining Haitians seeking to recover. Join UUSC in telling DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson:

  • Restore U.S. humanitarian policy that allows Haitians seeking refuge to enter the country.
  • Allow all Haitians already in the United States to stay and remain safe as the country recovers.
  • Keep families together in all cases.

How you can help

Support UUSC
UUSC is also working to strengthen our emergency response capacity—a capacity that can be a matter of life and death for the most marginalized and the most vulnerable. Help us respond to this humanitarian crisis and continue our life saving work around the world by rushing a generous gift to UUSC right now.

Take action
Let’s treat Haitians in the United States and on the border with the respect and dignity they deserve. Tell Secretary Johnson: We must restore U.S. policy that allows Haitians to enter the United States, allow those already in the country to stay, and keep families together. Sign and send a letter to DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson today.

Send a “Selfie of Solidarity”
Stand in solidarity with the people of Haiti by sharing a message of support in Haitian Creole. Make your own sign using the language below or click the message to print out a pre-made version, then take a selfie or group photo with your congregation while holding the message.

Send the photos to mobilization@uusc.org by Friday, November 4, 2016. We’ll compile all the images we receive and send all of them together to our partners on the ground. Please include your name and, if applicable, the name of your congregation or organization so we can share that information with our partners.

Join UUSC’s Refugee Rapid Response Network
Keep track of the latest news about refugee rights and how you can help protect them. Help the United States set an example that makes us proud by participating in actions and programs in your community, or by providing support for humanitarian assistance throughout the world. Sign up now.

Sign up to volunteer with UUCSJ
The UU College of Social Justice is in conversation with Haiti partners to determine whether volunteers from the United States can be of use in recovery efforts. As we engage in this discernment, we welcome potential volunteers to fill out this form, so we can begin to create a “skills bank” of those willing and able to assist. Add your name to volunteer here.

Congregational Resources

Click to download a PDF of the following items:

The Issue in the News

UUSC Statement on Hurricane Matthew

UUSC is deeply concerned about the people of Haiti in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew. We are working with our local partner organizations to assess the effects of the storm on “stateless” people stranded along the Dominican Republic border, and the more than 55,000 internally displaced people still living in camps and temporary shelters around the country.

As we learn about the situation on the ground, we will provide urgently-needed support to these marginalized populations. But there will be little time between their immediate needs and the next crisis. The hurricane threatens to further destabilize the country at a crucial point in time – the first round of Haiti’s scheduled presidential election is less than a week away.

The UU College of Social Justice is actively exploring Haiti’s need for volunteers with specific skills in the coming weeks and months. To learn more about the effects of Hurricane Matthew on Haiti’s population and how you can help, please contact us at info@uucsj.org.

UUSC responds strategically to disaster situations where human rights are threatened, focusing on the rights of marginalized and oppressed people. We work with the understanding that disasters, be they wars or hurricanes, tend to hurt most those who are already marginalized in society.

After large-scale disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina and the Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, UUSC and the Unitarian Universalist Association launch a joint appeal for humanitarian relief donations. Together, we have directed millions of dollars of relief aid toward disaster-affected communities in the United States and around the world. For more information, consult our web page of frequently asked questions about how UUSC responds to disasters and humanitarian crises.

Click here to make a donation and support our work today.

Updated October 13, 2016: For an update on UUSC’s advocacy work to support Haitian immigration to the United States  and how you can take action in your congregation to support efforts during this recovery period, please click here. We also have our partner on the ground. To learn more about the specific work, click here.

Report from the Haiti/Dominican Republic Border: For children, “stateless” means homeless, vulnerable

Take action today! Click here to tell Secretary Kerry to suspend miliary aid to the Dominican Republic until it stops deporting people of Haitian descent.

In June 2016, Michael Kourabas, UUSC Associate Director for Program and Partner Support, traveled to Belladère, Haiti, just inside the border with the Dominican Republic.  He and Kathleen McTigue, Director of the UU College of Social Justice, went there because this summer is a time of crisis for hundreds of thousands of residents of the Dominican Republic (D.R.), many of them children.

The crisis is the result of what’s been called la sentencia, a 2013 Dominican Constitutional Court ruling revoking citizenship for anyone who cannot provide proof of legal access into the country for their ancestors – even for Haitian-Dominicans born there – dating back to 1929. It’s a draconian, discriminatory law designed specifically to forcibly remove people of Haitian descent, and it’s enforced by Dominican border guards – police and military personnel – whose training is supported by foreign aid from the United States. Dominican police and military routinely have been selecting people they assume to be Haitian (i.e. profiled because of their darker skin), sending them to detention camps without access to food or sanitation facilities, and – without notifying family members – deporting them to Haiti, a country these individuals never called home, and which is not equipped to provide for even their most basic needs once they arrive. It’s a human rights disaster that is unfolding right before our eyes.

UUSC became involved in human rights work on the island of Hispaniola following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti that killed 160,000 people and left 1.5 million more homeless. Our partner organization, Zanmi Timoun (“Friends of Children”), was providing humanitarian relief to earthquake survivors and had been helping abused and enslaved children in Haiti since 2001. Through our collaboration, we learned of the persistent discrimination against people of Haitian descent in the D.R., and the impending effects of la sentencia. With new support from UUSC, Zanmi Timoun began providing humanitarian aid to children caught in these mass deportations, helping them reunite with their parents, and working with Haitian government agencies to repatriate unaccompanied children.

Last month’s visit to the Haitian-Dominican border is the third UUSC on-the-ground assessment during the past year. What they found was not encouraging. Children – the most vulnerable among tens of thousands of deportees – remain at risk of arriving in Haiti with minimal – if any – access to food, clothing, shelter, or bathing facilities. Already, cholera has been reported at some border crossings.

According to Michael, “When we arrived at the border, we noticed a Haitian Red Cross van leaving the official border crossing and heading to the Haiti Office National de la Migration (ONM) building, where Zanmi Timoun works alongside ONM to receive and document deportees. Ultimately, two vans would transport about 10 young men who had just been deported from the D.R. As soon as they were registered by Zanmi Timoun and ONM, we were told the young men snuck back into the DR using an ‘unofficial’ border crossing.”

Had these deportees been minors, they would have faced an even graver situation. “In May, the government locked the Brigade for the Protection of Minors (BPM) building, which Zanmi Timoun had been using to assist recently deported minors,” Michael explained. “Unfortunately, Zanmi Timoun’s supplies remain locked in the BPM building, so they do not even have sanitary kits to give to deportees.” Much needs to be done.

Since 1974, U.S. military aid has been suspended to at least 11 countries for human rights violations. It’s time for us to stop being complicit and to increase pressure on the Dominican Republic to restore citizenship to people of Haitian descent.

Because government policies in the D.R. are at the root of this crisis, UUSC believes taking action to stop these deportations is an important first step. That is why we are calling on our supporters to sign a petition to Secretary of State John Kerry demanding that the U.S. stop providing financial assistance to the D.R. military until it agrees to end this blatant violation of human rights. It’s an action the United States has taken before; since 1974, U.S. military aid has been suspended to at least 11 countries for human rights violations. It’s time for us to stop being complicit and to increase pressure on the D.R. to restore citizenship to people of Haitian descent.

Pamela Sparr, Associate Director for UUSC’s Justice Building Programs, sums up the challenge before us. “In crises like these, when the very survival of vulnerable children is at stake, it is important for our country to do something on their behalf. Demanding that we stop providing aid to a military force that is abusing children as a matter of government policy is only the first of many things that need to be done. Challenging the forced removal of Haitian-Dominicans is an important first step, but even after we succeed in this task, we must continue our work to ensure the human rights of children in the Dominican Republic and Haiti.”