By Josh Leach on November 21, 2017
UUSC calls for the immediate reinstatement of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haiti and a permanent legislative solution, in the wake of the Trump administration’s callous decision last night to withdraw TPS from 59,000 Haitians in the United States. This decision is morally indefensible and blatantly at odds with current realities in Haiti. Congress has the power to extend protections for TPS holders by passing the SECURE Act and should act without delay.
Haitian TPS holders have spent years in the United States, building lives and enriching our communities. They are also the parents of an estimated 27,000 U.S. citizens. Just days before the start of the holiday season, the administration has thrown these families’ unity, futures, and lives into jeopardy. The U.S. State Department issued a warning in September to U.S. citizens about the dangers of traveling to Haiti that remains in effect as of this writing. Yet the administration proposes to deport the parents of 27,000 U.S. citizens to these very dangers.
Haiti is in no position to receive people who have been living in the U.S. for years. The country continues to grapple with the compounding effects of recent hurricanes, a cholera epidemic introduced by U.N. peacekeeping forces, a recent outbreak of diphtheria, a devastating 2010 earthquake, and ongoing political instability and economic dislocation wrought by decades of U.S. intervention. A program of mass deportation and the end of remittances from TPS holders, which provide a critical economic lifeline for the country, would be a further catastrophe.
UUSC and our Haitian partners are directly aware of the gravity of the injustices facing Haiti and the ongoing need for TPS. As Associate Director for Program and Partner Support Michael Kourabas wrote upon his return from a recent visit to our partners the Mouvman Peyizan Papay (MPP), with whom UUSC has collaborated on an innovative model for sustainable recovery called the EcoVillage project, “The structural disadvantages facing Haiti, particularly when experienced first-hand, can feel paralyzing… Both the enormity of the struggle and the sliver of hope are on display in the EcoVillages.”
Heartless as the administration’s move may be, it is not surprising. Last night’s decision is the latest in a string of similar blows to programs that uphold the rights and safety of immigrants. In the past few months alone, the administration has terminated Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the Central American Minors (CAM) program, and TPS protections for both Nicaraguan and Sudanese nationals.
While the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) claimed yesterday that its decision was based solely on a review of conditions in Haiti, its actions reveal it as part of a larger agenda of criminalizing immigrant communities.
When DHS made an earlier determination about TPS last spring, senior officials reportedly instructed staffers to dig up stories of Haitian TPS holders committing crimes. Previous DHS Secretary John Kelly allegedly pressured Acting Secretary Elaine Duke to end TPS for Hondurans as well, earlier this month, as part of a broader push against the program.
This xenophobic agenda can be resisted and defeated. Last week, Members of Congress introduced the SECURE Act, which would enable TPS holders to become green-card holders after three years. UUSC’s partners at the UndocuBlack Network, along with allies from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Mormon Women for Ethical Governance, CASA and other organizations, joined with Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen to introduce the Bill. Congress can and should pass this legislation immediately and protect 55,000 Haitian immigrants who are beloved members of our communities.
Once again this week, the administration used the enormity of its power to harm some of the most vulnerable communities in the United States; yet, the strength and leadership of our partners gives us hope that there is still time to sway the future. As the poet Langston Hughes once wrote: “I have such meager power/ Clutching at a moment, while you control an hour./ But your hour is a stone./ My moment is a flower.”