Even as the Obama administration has resumed deportation of Haitians living illegally in the country, the New York City Council has passed a resolution requesting that the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) grant renewed Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to undocumented Haitian nationals.
The resolution, introduced by Brooklyn Council Member Dr. Mathieu Eugene, the first Haitian to be elected to the City Council, is “part of an ongoing effort to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Haiti while providing Haitians living abroad the opportunity to remain in a stable environment,” according to Eugene.
Eugene, who represents the largely Caribbean 40th Council District in Brooklyn, said that, over the past decade, Haiti has suffered from a number of natural disasters, including tropical storms, earthquakes, and, most recently, a hurricane.
“This legislation will help to lessen the burden on Haiti as it continues its rebuilding process,” said Eugene, a member of the City Council Immigration Committee. “Any country in the world, even a rich country, would find it difficult to recover after several natural disasters.
“I think it makes sense that we, as elected officials, continue to work together to ensure that the American government and Homeland Security grant TPS to Haitian people who are now in the United States because they cannot return to Haiti,” he continued.
Last week, the DHS disclosed that over 200 Haitians have been deported in the last several weeks.
DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said on Nov. 22 that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, which falls under DHS’ jurisdiction, also “plans to significantly expand removal operations in the coming weeks.”
But Johnson said Haitian nationals currently covered by Temporary Protected Status (TPS) are unaffected by the resumption of deportation to the French-speaking Caribbean country.
“Specifically, those Haitian nationals who have been continuously residing in the United States since Jan. 12, 2011 and currently hold TPS may remain in the United States and are not subject to removal,” he said in a statement. “These beneficiaries also remain eligible for employment authorization.”
Johnson said TPS for Haitian nationals has been extended through Jul. 22, 2017, adding, however, that “recently, we have seen an increase in the numbers of those apprehended on the southern border.”
He said he has instructed border security and immigration enforcement personnel “to take steps to keep pace with this increase.”
As a result, the DHS secretary said there are currently about 41,000 immigrants in US immigration detention facilities, including over 4,400 Haitians. Typically, the number in immigration detention is about 31,000 to 34,000, he said.
“I have authorized ICE to acquire additional detention space so that those apprehended at the border and not eligible for humanitarian relief can be detained and sent home as soon as possible,” Johnson said. “We must enforce the immigration laws consistent with our priorities.
“Those who attempt to enter our country illegally must know that, consistent with our laws and our values, we must and we will send you back,” he affirmed.
Following the tragic earthquake that struck Haiti in January 2010, Johnson noted that ICE ceased deporting Haitians living illegally in the US.
But, in 2011, Johnson said the US resumed the removals of Haitians “on a limited basis, who had final orders of removal and had been convicted of a serious crime.”
On Sept. 22 this year, Johnson announced that the US would resume removals of Haitian nationals “in accordance with our existing enforcement priorities.”
He said this includes those apprehended at the US border, attempting to enter the country illegally.
In the wake of Hurricane Matthew, which struck Haiti on Oct. 4, Johnson said removal flights to Haiti were briefly suspended.
Last month, Caribbean American congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke urged the Obama administration to immediately halt the deportation of undocumented Haitians, stating that “the majority of the people DHS intends to remove have not been accused of any crime.”
On Nov. 2, Clarke, who represents the 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn, with 13 of her congressional colleagues, urged Johnson to suspend the removal of Haitian nationals who have not been convicted of a serious crime or otherwise present a threat to US national security.
Earlier, two major Haitian Diaspora groups in New York launched an online petition requesting that Obama also immediately halt the deportation of undocumented Haitians in the wake of the massive destruction caused by Hurricane Matthew.
The New York-based Haiti Renewal Alliance and the United Front of the Haitian Diaspora launched the petition, saying that they are hoping to build awareness to support it, which, on receiving 100,000 signatures, will require an official response from the White House.
“This petition is to urge President Barack Obama to grant Deferred Enforcement Departure (DED), expand and/or Re-designate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitian nationals, including recently arrived individuals who are currently threatened with deportation, based on the devastation of Hurricane Matthew,” the petition says.
“It is currently impractical, unsafe and inhumane to deport people into the country at this time,” the petition says. “Haitians are hardworking, law-abiding, contribute to the US economy, as well as supporting their families via remittances.”
In October, Florida Democratic Congressman Alcee L. Hastings, who represents Ft. Lauderdale, sent a letter to President Obama, urging him to set a date under Haiti’s TPS designation that will account for the effects of Hurricane Matthew on the French-speaking Caribbean country.
“Given these facts, I believe it is appropriate to grant a TPS designation for those Haitians affected by Hurricane Matthew, and I ask that you do all that you can to ensure that such a designation is made without delay and uses as its Continuous Residence date, October 4, 2016,” he said in his letter to Obama.