Black Democratic congressional leaders have joined Caribbean legislators in expressing outrage over the Trump administration’s decision to terminate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for nearly 60,000 undocumented Haitian nationals residing in the United States.
US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Acting Secretary Elaine Duke said on Monday that she made the decision to terminate the TPS designation for Haitians, with a delayed effective date of 18 months, “to allow for an orderly transition before the designation terminates on July 22, 2019.”
But on Tuesday, US Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke and chair of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Immigration Working Group, Congressman John Conyers of Michigan, House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member, and Congressman Cedric Richmond of Louisiana, CBC chairman, said, in a joint statement, that they were outraged by the decision that now forces the Haitian immigrants to return home.
They noted that the massive earthquake in the French-speaking Caribbean country killed more than 300,000 people in 2010, disrupted the function of civil society, displaced families from their homes, closed schools and social service agencies, created instability in the government and undermined the economy.
The Black congressional leaders said these conditions were exacerbated by the cholera epidemic, subsequent hurricanes and food insecurity crisis, “which continues to this day.”
“The people of Haiti demonstrated extraordinary resolve in their efforts to rebuild,” they said. “These efforts have been supported by Haitian nationals here in the United States who have worked hard and sent money to family members and friends. These remittances are critical to the recovery, and have provided for basic needs, including education, agricultural restoration, business development and home reconstruction.
“Although the administration granted Haitians another 18 months in the United States, the conditions on the ground clearly merit continuing TPS coverage, rather than terminating this essential, life-saving designation,” they added. “While campaigning in Miami, then-candidate Donald Trump called Haitian-Americans hard-working, creative and industrious, and promised to be their ‘greatest champion.’ Today, Donald Trump broke that promise.
“By ending Temporary Protected Status for Haitians, the Trump Administration has put the lives of more than 50,000 people at risk,” Clarke, Conyers and Richmond continued, stating that the decision is a “low point for this administration” and “will leave an indelible mark further tarnishing his [Trump’s] legacy.”
Additionally, the Black congressional leaders said the “wrongful decision underscores the need for congress to lead by passing bipartisan comprehensive TPS legislation that would provide meaningful relief to Haiti and all other similarly situated countries.”
New York State Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte, the daughter of Haitian immigrants, who represents the predominantly Caribbean 42nd Assembly District in Brooklyn, said she was “equally saddened and angered” by the decision.
“For anyone who has been to Haiti in recent months, it is clear that the administration’s decision does not coincide with the dangerous reality on the ground,” said Bichotte, the first Haitian American from New York City to be elected to New York State Assembly. “The return of tens of thousands of people is only going to make conditions worse.
“Furthermore, it would be equally dangerous for the other hundreds of thousands of Central Americans who don’t know any life other than their life in the US,” she added. “In addition, for both Haitians and Central Americans, their economic contributions to both the US and their home countries will now be lost. The fight must continue to address these inhumane and unconstitutional decisions.”
Brooklyn Councilman Jumaane Williams, the son of Grenadian immigrants, who represents the 45th Council District, said he was “appalled to hear the administration’s decision, but I was not shocked.
“This kind of callous, deliberate disregard for the well-being of hard-working immigrants, this disdain for our fellow human beings, is what we’ve come to expect from Donald Trump,” he told Caribbean Life. “Trump’s own State Department has a travel advisory in place, which cites the dangers of travel to Haiti for Americans. Yet, he has no problem forcing Haitians, who came here in the wake of a devastating earthquake and outbreak of disease, to return to a country once again crippled by a natural disaster, Hurricane Matthew.
“It could not be more clear that his motives are xenophobic, that his priorities lie in creating fear and relegating certain people to a second class, and I will not stand for it, 59,000 Haitians living in the US under Temporary Protected Status will not stand for it, and their neighbors and communities will not stand for it,” Williams added. “We must fight for what is hard, because we are factually right and Trump is morally incorrect.
“Rather than simply expressing our outrage, those of us with the power to do so, need to formulate and enact plans of action,” he continued. “We need to challenge this decision and put pressure on congress to address this issue legislatively and humanely. We must all become a part of the resistance. This president has made it clear that he’s coming for all of us – whether we choose to acknowledge it or not.”
Duke said on Monday that the decision to end TPS for Haitians follows then DHS Secretary John Kelly’s announcement in May 2017 that Haiti had made “considerable progress, and that the country’s designation will likely not be extended past six months.”
“The decision to terminate TPS for Haiti was made after a review of the conditions upon which the country’s original designation were based and whether those extraordinary but temporary conditions prevented Haiti from adequately handling the return of their nationals, as required by statute,” Duke said.
“Based on all available information, including recommendations received as part of an inter-agency consultation process,” Duke said she determined that “those extraordinary but temporary conditions caused by the 2010 earthquake no longer exist.
“Thus, under the applicable statute, the current TPS designation must be terminated,” she affirmed, stating that she met with Haitian Foreign Minister Antonio Rodrigue and Haitian Ambassador to the United States Paul Altidor recently in Washington to discuss the issue.
To allow for an orderly transition, Duke said the effective date of the termination of TPS for Haiti will be delayed 18 months, stating that “this will provide time for individuals with TPS to arrange for their departure or to seek an alternative lawful immigration status in the United States, if eligible.”
The decision to terminate TPS for 58,000 Haiti nationals living in the US comes 14 days after DHS announced it was terminating TPS for 2,500 Nicaraguans and delaying a decision for 57,000 Hondurans, which automatically gave them a six-month extension after their current status expires in January.