As the Obama administration in the United States has resumed deportation of Haitians living illegally in the country, there is a growing chorus of calls for Washington to reverse course.
In the latest appeal, three legislators in Brooklyn have dispatched a joint letter to the US Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, and to the Obama administration asking them to rescind their decision to resume deportations of Haitians.
New York State Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte, New York City Council Member Jumaane D. Williams, and New York State Senator Kevin Parker said Haitians being deported are unfairly “singled out.”
Bichotte, the first Haitian American in New York City to be elected to New York State Assembly, has also participated in a social media campaign imploring the US administration to re-designate Haitians refugees for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) classification and to expand the Haitian Family Reunification Program.
The three elected officials represent largely Caribbean districts in Brooklyn, with high concentration of Haitians. Bichotte represents the 42nd Assembly District, Williams the 45th City Council District, and Parker the 21st Senatorial District.
“America has long been known as the land of opportunity, and a country that has opened its borders to immigrants,” the legislators say in their joint letter. “If we look at more recent immigrants, such as Cubans, there has long been a policy that once they arrive, if they make it to our shores, they are allowed to stay and granted refugee status.
“There were also Salvadorans and Guatemalans, which sought asylum in our country during the civil war in El Salvador, many to whom asylum was granted,” they add. “Ultimately, legislation was put in place — the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central Relief Act (1972) – which allowed these groups to apply directly for a green card. In addition, the Obama administration has recently said it would accept 110,000 Syrian refugees. In light of these policies, it would appear, that these Haitian immigrants are being singled out.”
The politicians wrote that, prior to the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, many Haitians migrated there to find work, stating that, once the Olympics were over, jobs were scarce and that some Haitians began the long and treacherous journey to the US / Mexico border “only to be detained or turned away.”
In some cases, Bichotte, Williams and Parker said Haitian families were separated — “women and children from their husbands and fathers, due to the abrupt change in immigration policy.”
The legislators said the deportations resumed “at a time when there was a tragic confluence of events, including the devastation Hurricane Matthew and a widespread cholera epidemic, accompanied by a pending election.
“Contrary to what DHS (Department of Homeland Security) has stated, the situation in Haiti has not improved; it has worsened, warranting a humanitarian response, not harsh enforcement,” they said, adding that “without an effort to rectify this situation, DHS’ forced separation of family members may mean that families are separated for a lifetime.
“We are currently seeing what appears to be an unprecedented humanitarian crisis throughout the world.,” they continued. “Like their peers, these Haitian immigrants face a great deal of uncertainty if they were to go back to their home country – political and economic instability, a cholera epidemic, and the fallout from the recent hurricane, not to mention that their biggest obstacle will likely be that the Haitian government will not accept them due to documentation issues. They will be completely without a country.
“We would like to urge the Obama Administration to please reconsider their recent actions and reverse their course to deport undocumented Haitian immigrants, while there is still time,” the legislators implored.
Earlier this month, New York City Council passed a resolution requesting that the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security grant 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, was “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, also 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 added.
Earlier, 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 TPS are unaffected by the resumption of deportation to the French-speaking Caribbean country.
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