Haitians Will Lose Deportation Protection in 2019

  • Posted on: 21 November 2017
  • By: Bryan Schaaf
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NOVEMBER 20, 2017

By Jacqueline Charles

Miami Herald

After years of being shielded from deportation from the United States while their disaster-prone country continues to recover from its devastating 2010 earthquake, tens of thousands of Haitians will now lose that safeguard. The special deportation protection known as Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, will be revoked for as many as 59,000 Haitians living and working in Miami and across the U.S., Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Elaine Duke announced Monday. The protection will permanently terminate July 22, 2019, allowing Haitians living in the U.S. under TPS an 18-month window to return to their struggling homeland. At the end of the 18 months, Haitians who had TPS but remain in the U.S. will return to whatever immigration status they previously held, leaving them facing possible detention and deportation if they stay in the country illegally.

“With this decision, the law is relatively explicit that if the conditions on the ground do not support a TPS designation, then the secretary must terminate the TPS designation,” a senior administration official said on a call with reporters Monday night to announce the decision. “The conversations she had were constructive. They were informative. They were helpful. And we fully expect that in the 18 months coming up, the acting secretary will continue those conversations with the members on the Hill and the Haitian government to prepare for the return of Haitian [TPS] recipients.”  The decision 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.

The announcement, while pleasing to immigration hardliners who argue that the provision was never meant to be permanent, deals a hard blow to longtime Haitian and immigration advocates. For months they have lobbied the Trump administration to extend the status for at least 18 months. It had been set to expire Jan. 22. “Haiti is not ready to absorb 58,000,” said Marleine Bastien, a South Florida Haitian activist who has pushed for at least an 18-month extension of TPS. “It’s going to be a disaster for the 58,000 families in the U.S. and a disaster for Haiti. Clearly they are not making decisions based on facts on the ground, but rather politics. This is purely unacceptable.”

Members of Congress from South Florida reacted with dismay. Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, called the decision “unconscionable,” urging the administration to reconsider. U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican, and U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, a Democrat, both vowed to look for legislative solutions. TPS holders were shocked by the news. While they had hoped for 18 months more in the country, they didn’t expect that window to end in termination of the protection. “I do not believe I will survive one month in Haiti,” said Paula Vilme, 31, a single mother of three young children who came to the U.S. when she was 9 years-old. “I’ve been here for so long. My whole life is here...This is home, so when they tell you to go back, where am I going to?”

In May, Duke’s predecessor, John Kelly — now Trump’s chief of staff — announced a limited extension of six months for Haitians. It took effect July 22. But that decision came with a strong signal from Kelly that it would likely be Haiti’s last reprieve. In response, an unprecedented wave of Haitian TPS-holders illegally crossed into French-speaking Quebec out of fear that they would be detained in the U.S. and deported to Haiti. Quebec has a large community of Haitians. Haiti’s Foreign Minister Antonio Rodrigue, who personally lobbied Duke for an 18-month extension, called the decision disappointing. But he said 18 months gives Haitians time to get their affairs in order, “and the government time to prepare for their return.”

Enacted in 1990, TPS allows nationals from countries facing civil strife or major natural disasters who are already in the United States to temporarily remain and work here. But President Donald Trump has repeatedly pledged to impose tighter immigration controls, with many of his supporters saying the program has been abused. Congress, critics of the program say, needs to provide a permanent fix for the more than 300,000 Haitians and Central Americans who currently are protected from deportation under TPS.

According to a recent study by the Center for Migration Studies, Haitians on TPS have been living in the United States on average for 13 years, and have 27,000 U.S.-citizen children among them. More than 80 percent are employed, while 6,200 have mortgages. TPS advocates have maintained that terminating the program would be cruel and families would be torn apart. And Haiti, they say, still hasn’t been sufficiently rebuilt after the earthquake to accept the influx. “Some disasters take a long time to recover from,” said Randolph McGrorty, an attorney and director of Catholic Legal Services in Miami, which provides legal advice to the Haitian community. “What happened in Haiti is a good example ... It takes time.”

But DHS has slowly been narrowing the number of TPS holders. In September, it announced that it was canceling the protection for Sudan nationals as of 2018 but would allow those from South Sudan, a country in the throes of an armed conflict, to remain until mid-2019. The lack of a decision on Honduran TPS holders had some advocates hoping that nearly 200,000 Salvadorans may also be spared. Their status expires in March 2018.

Royce Murray, policy director of the American Immigration Council, said Duke has broad discretion under the statute to consider not just the earthquake but the “totality of country conditions that have complicated their ability to recover from that disaster,” including new variables that make it difficult for their nationals to go home.

Murray and others said the non-decision on Honduras underscored tensions in the Trump administration over TPS, which a source familiar with the proceedings noted were centered on a recent State Department report on country conditions. The source, who was not authorized to speak to the press, said U.S. foreign service officers were put under considerable pressure by DHS, with policy hawks and politicians at State disagreeing over whether conditions had improved. “It seems to us as outsiders, the folks who are most familiar with country conditions in these foreign countries are most inclined toward an extension. Those who are removed from country conditions and focused more on the politics of it have leaned the other way,” Murray said after the Nicaragua and Honduras announcements were made. “I think the tensions have been very real.”

In Haiti’s case, advocates say the country is in no condition to handle the influx, seven years after the 7.0-magnitude quake created billions of dollars in damages, left 300,000 dead, 1.5 million injured and an equal number internally displaced.And the country remains vulnerable. Hurricane Matthew hit the southern region and created $2.8 billion in damages last year, followed by brushes from hurricanes Irma and Maria, and the country continues to suffer from a deadly cholera epidemic, a disease introduced by U.N. peacekeepers. Last week, the Office of Civil Protection confirmed that at least five people had died and 10,000 homes were flooded after days of rain.

Haiti advocates spent months lobbying for support to continue TPS, including a campaign of newspaper editorials and letters of support from faith leaders, governors, city councils and congressional lawmakers on both sides of the aisles. “Haiti is a textbook case for an 18-month extension due to Hurricane Matthew, the cholera epidemic and incomplete earthquake recovery,” Steven Forester, immigration policy coordinator for the Boston-based Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, argued. Haiti’s U.S. Ambassador Paul Altidor, who requested an 18-month extension in an October letter to Duke, noted that the country’s crippling economy relies heavily on the diaspora working in the U.S. and islands near Haiti that were also hit by hurricanes in 2017. They contribute more than $2.4 billion annually in remittances to the Haitian economy “As many of these countries struggle to rebound from these hurricanes, Haitian expatriates working there have found themselves unable to support their families back home, further complicating Haiti’s recovery process and delaying the ability of the country to place itself back in the position that it was in prior to the 2010 earthquake,” Altidor wrote.

Despite Altidor’s forceful advocacy, and that of Rodrigue, the White House hadn’t seemed inclined to extend the protection for Haitians’ — despite Trump’s promise during his presidential bid to be Haiti’s biggest “champion.” Relations between the two nations have been at best tense, with Haiti’s ambassador to the Organization of American States in April publicly snubbing the U.S. over Venezuela as he accused diplomats of meddling in the South American nation’s internal affairs. Duke’s decision to allow an 18-month delay was informed by lobbying from Altidor and Rodrigue, a senior administration official said. Duke met with members of the Florida congressional delegation, including Nelson and also contacted Gov. Rick Scott, who is among several governors who supported an 18-month extension on behalf of Haitians — 32,500 of whom, according to the Center for Migration Studies’ analysis, call Florida home.

She worked to understand conditions on the ground in Haiti. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the DHS department responsible for administering the TPS program, determined that “Haiti has made significant progress since 2010,” the official said. “Only Congress can take action to reform the TPS program or address the concerns voiced by many that these individuals should have a future in the United States,” the senior administration official said. “The secretary has repeatedly said no one should live their life 18 months at a time, and that a permanent solution should be found.”

DHS noted that the number of people displaced by the quake had decreased by 97 percent and a legitimate government is now in place. Haiti had received four 18-month extensions on TPS after its initial 2010 designation. But Kelly, who repeatedly emphasized the “temporary” in TPS, was not keen on granting another renewal or re-designation. After traveling to Haiti in late May to meet with Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, Kelly told the Miami Herald that he believed that conditions in Haiti had improved. He cited as proof Moïse’s plans to rebuild the country’s quake-damaged presidential palace, and that the United Nations was pulling out its peacekeeping mission.

While the U.N. did withdraw its blue-helmeted soldiers from Haiti under pressure from Washington to reduce its peacekeeping missions around the globe, it still considers an impoverished Haiti a threat to regional security. It replaced the $346-million-a-year peacekeeping mission with a smaller, less costly one focused on justice, human rights and police reform. Meanwhile, the budget recently passed by Haiti’s parliament doesn’t have any money allocated for the palace’s reconstruction. Tom Jawetz, vice president for immigration policy at the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C., disagrees with DHS’ assessment on Haiti’s progress since 2010, or in the last six months since the last extension was given by Kelly. “This administration has already spoken as to conditions on the ground,” Jawetz said referring to the May decision that said “Although Haiti has made significant progress in recovering from the January 2010 earthquake that prompted its initial designation, conditions in Haiti supporting its designation for TPS continue to be met at this time.”

“In the intervening months, we had hurricanes Irma and Maria and a worsening food insecurity crisis,” Jawetz said. “The collection of factors on the ground between May 2017 and Nov. 2017 can’t possibly be cited as justification for coming to a different decision than what they made six months ago.” Herald staff writers Patricia Mazzei and Mary Ellen Klas and McClatchy Correspondent Franco Ordoñez contributed to this story.


If you have Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, lawyers say you should consider:

▪ A one-on-one meeting with an immigration lawyer to review immigration history and options.

▪ Honest conversations with neighbors and relatives about custody arrangements.

▪ Getting a “power of attorney” document.

▪ Come up with a contingency plan regardless of whether the status is extended for six months, or 18 months, as advocates have requested.

Kids of TPS parents gathered while speakers addressed the media at the FANM office in Little Haiti, Nov. 6, 2017, in reaction to Temporary Protected Status possibly being terminated. 

Photo Credit: Miami Herald


By Nina Agrawal

In the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Crown Heights, East Flatbush and Canarsie, home to large Haitian populations, some residents prayed. Others just hoped. Some made appointments with lawyers. Some residents went underground. Others left the country. “The community is in a total panic,” labor organizer and attorney Ritha Pierre said on the eve of an announcement from the federal government about temporary legal status for Haitian immigrants. On Monday night that announcement finally came, with the Homeland Security Department saying that 59,000 Haitian immigrants with so-called temporary protected status, or TPS, could stay in the country until July 2019 but then must leave the country.

Though the immediate panic may have subsided, uncertainty about the future did not. “The administration punted,” Emmanuel Depas, a Haitian American attorney, said Tuesday. “Some people are shocked and disappointed, some are relieved.” Some reacted Tuesday by taking to the streets of New York to protest, carrying signs saying “Here to stay” and “Renew TPS for Haitians! Don’t break families apart!”

Daniel Ulysse, a chaplain at the French Speaking Baptist Church of Brooklyn, said that although he was not surprised by the Trump administration’s decision — “We didn’t expect something forever” — he was grateful the end of TPS status was pushed back to 2019. An earlier proposal had called for the Haitians’ temporary status to end in early 2018. "We needed that two years. We were praying, we were lobbying to get that extension — and now we need to fix things in Haiti," Ulysse said.

The legal designation of TPS, renewed periodically, offers people who are from countries affected by war or natural disaster temporary relief from deportation and allows them to work. Haitians were first given the protections after the earthquake of January 2010, which killed more than 300,000 people, displaced more than 1.5 million people and sparked a cholera epidemic. The protections were extended several times, most recently in May, when then-Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly signaled the department might terminate them in six months.

Those in favor of keeping the program in place say Haitians make valuable contributions to the American economy and the cities in which they live, and that the already-strained island nation is not ready to absorb tens of thousands of people. An October report by the Global Justice Clinic at New York University School of Law found that Haiti is still reeling from the cholera epidemic, inadequate housing and food insecurity, all of which were exacerbated by last year’s Hurricane Matthew.

Critics of the program say it was meant only to provide temporary assistance and that termination is long overdue. “The ‘T’ in TPS stands for ‘temporary,’ ” said Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, ahead of the decision. “It was never intended to be a long-term benefit that people could extend ad infinitum. And it never implied that countries had to become gardens of Eden before anyone could go home.”

In New York, home to the second-largest Haitian population in the U.S. after Florida, community leaders, organizers and elected officials made final pleas to the administration in the run-up to the decision. They held town halls, marched over the Brooklyn Bridge and sent letters to the administration urging an extension. On Tuesday they began the work of figuring out what’s next.

The mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs went ahead as planned with a “day of action,” canvassing neighborhoods across the city, informing people of their rights and of legal and mental health resources available to them, and urging them to call their congressional representatives. 

A member of the Canadian Parliament, Emmanuel Dubourg, was also in town meeting with community leaders to counter rumors that Haitians can easily migrate to Canada. “It’s important to tell them there is no special program for the Haitian community,” Dubourg, himself of Haitian origin, said Monday. “We have to tell them, if they come to Canada as asylum seekers ... what’s going to be next. There are not a lot of Haitian people eligible for asylum claims.”

Dubourg represents a Montreal-area district that saw an influx of Haitians over the summer. He said his outreach was not meant to deter people from trying to immigrate to Canada, but to inform them of legal pathways and of the possibility of deportation. The expiration of TPS will present a conundrum for approximately 6,000 Haitian New Yorkers. Many have homes, jobs or family members they don’t want to leave behind.

In New York state, about half of all Haitian immigrants work in the education, health and social services industries, according to Census Bureau data. Laura Joseph, executive director of Bhrags Home Care Corp., which provides home health services to many Haitian clients in Canarsie, estimated that about half of her employees were Haitian as well. “I’m affected from both angles,” Joseph said. “My clients will be removed, and I won’t have Haitian employees to take care of Haitians.”

Their earnings are also vital to those back home: In 2016, remittances made up nearly 30% of Haiti’s gross domestic product, according to the World Bank. Lawmakers, including several from Florida and New York, have introduced bipartisan legislation that would grant TPS holders a path to permanent legal status and called on Congress to pass the bills in the wake of the administration’s decision.

Until then, community leaders say they will urge Haitians to come up with a plan, even as they hope for a long-term fix. That could mean preparing for a return to Haiti or examining alternative legal options, such as petitioning for status through a family member or a special visa for those who have been victims of a crime. For Haitian residents with American-born children, the difficult choice of whether to stay in the U.S. and go into hiding or go back to a country their children have never known has been put on hold — for now.

Roodelyne, a single mom who relies on her work authorization for her job taking care of disabled adults, was in angst ahead of the decision. Like many Haitians nervous about their status, she asked that only her first name be used. “Nobody would survive here without [TPS] because you won’t be able to work,” she said.

Roodelyne, whose house in Haiti was destroyed in the earthquake, said she had nobody in the U.S. who could take care of her 8-year-old son, nor did she have family or friends to turn to on the island. “Everybody that I know was in the same situation as me in 2010 — we spread all over,” she said.

Despite the short-term relief she has now been granted, Roodelyne said she was sad about the administration’s decision. “I don’t know what’s going to happen,” she said. “Maybe we have enough time for something to change.”

by Daniel Arkin 

Associated Pres

Just before bedtime on Monday night, Reginald Lysias sat his 6-year-old daughter down and told her something he knew would break her heart. "I told her we have to go to Haiti," Lysias recalled. "She asked me, 'Why?' I told her that President Donald Trump doesn't want us to stay in the U.S."

The girl cried all night. Lysias, a 40-year-old pastor at a Baptist church in Northern California, is one of as many as 60,000 Haitians living and working in the U.S. on a temporary residency program created after a catastrophic earthquake rocked the Caribbean nation in 2010. The Trump administration has announced that it plans to end "temporary protected status," or TPS, for those Haitians on July 22, 2019.

That means Lysias and his wife, Yolly, have just under two years to figure out what comes next. He is struggling to understand why his adopted country would turn him away. "I didn't sleep at all last night. I kept asking myself why this was happening," he said on Tuesday. "What will I do with my home, my car, the church that I lead?"

Lysias came to the U.S. to preach. He arrived in December 2009, spending several weeks speaking to churches across the Bay Area. He was all set to return to his native country the following month, but disaster struck.

A magnitude-7.0 earthquake devastated Haiti in January 2010, killing tens of thousands of people and destroying countless homes and businesses. Lysias lost everything — including a school that he owned and where he had been principal. "My life was gone. All of it," Lysias recalled.

But he and his wife soon found refuge. President Barack Obama, just days after the quake, granted 18-month protection status for Haitians living in America who otherwise might be forced to return to their shattered country. Obama renewed TPS every time it ran out. "We had permission to stay and build a life," Lysias said. "We got a home, we paid our taxes."

Reginald and Yolly Lysias settled in Novato, a city in the affluent Marin County area of Northern California. He became a pastor at a small Baptist church, home to about 100 congregants. She became a nurse at Kentfield Hospital, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. And together they raised four children. Three of their kids were born in America; the youngest is two.

All the while, Haiti continued to deteriorate. The nation grappled with horrid conditions — rampant homelessness, crumbling infrastructure, and the spread of disease and infection. And last year, the nation was lashed by Hurricane Matthew.

The Department of Homeland Security, however, has said life there has improved dramatically. "Since the 2010 earthquake, the number of displaced people in Haiti has decreased by 97 percent," the department said in a statement on Monday night. "Haiti is able to safely receive traditional levels of returned citizens."

The administration announcement came 60 days before temporary status for the Haitians was set to expire. Homeland Security extended the program for six months in May, instead of the usual 18.

Lysias balks at the prospect of returning to Haiti, especially with his young kids in tow. "I keep thinking about them," he said. "They don't speak Creole, they don't speak French. How will they go to school with a language they don't know? How will they adopt a home they don't know? How can we live in that country now?" "We are terrified."

By Heather Digby Parton

President Donald Trump issued two presidential pardons on Tuesday, and to the nation's great relief they didn't go to anyone named Manafort or Flynn. They were for a couple of other turkeys — named Drumstick and Wishbone — and in his usual classy fashion he joked that he loved to rescind his predecessor's orders and had looked into withdrawing the pardons for last year's turkeys but was told he couldn't do it. He seemed quite pleased with himself.

Unfortunately, there are millions of Americans not feeling quite so happy this Thanksgiving. The Trump administration dropped a lovely bombshell this week on the 58,000 Haitians who came to America after the catastrophic earthquake in 2010 as part of the temporary permit program and basically told them to leave.

Recall that these Haitians were displaced by a massive earthquake in 2010 that killed more than 100,000 people and destroyed an estimated 250,000 residences and 30,000 commercial buildings.There were so many bodies they had to be buried in mass graves. Nearly all infrastructure — including communications, airports, roads and power lines — were destroyed. Cholera broke out and killed more than 8,000 people. In other words, the country was decimated.

The disaster was so monumental that help and pledges came in from all over the world. But the task has been overwhelming and corruption has been rife, particularly in one egregious case involving the American Red Cross, which NPR and Pro Publica reported in 2015 had mismanaged $500 million dollars that had been donated for disaster relief and rebuilding of the country with very little to show for it. Seven years later, the country has barely begun to fully recover, at least partly due to the fact that much of the help they were promised never materialized.

Haiti is one of the most impoverished countries in the world and the poorest in the Americas. It has a population of 11 million and the average life expectancy is only 50 years. According to the World Bank, "more than 6 million out of 10.4 million (59 percent) Haitians live under the national poverty line of $2.41 per day and over 2.5 million (24 percent) live under the national extreme poverty line of $1.23 per day." It is not exactly the land of opportunity.

Nonetheless, the Trump administration has decided that, despite the fact that many of these people have American children and are working and contributing to the country, they have to go back. They are determined to deport as many people as possible, regardless of their circumstances, what they are facing in their home countries and how much they have enriched our communities. For now this seems to be the final word for these Haitians, but Democratic Sens. Ben Cardin, Chris Van Hollen and Dianne Feinstein have proposed legislation to protect undocumented immigrants living under temporary protected status in the future by allowing them to apply for permanent legal status after three years. It's unlikely this will ever pass with the immigrant-hating Trump in the White House, but it could happen if the Democrats take control in 2020.

And that could happen as a direct result of such harsh and cruel policies. Right now, Puerto Rico is still in the midst of a catastrophe not all that different from what happened in Haiti in 2010. It has not faced the massive loss of life because there was warning of the hurricane and people were able to prepare. But the broken infrastructure and loss of basic necessities in the disaster's wake is also devastating. And in this case, the island is an American territory which could have expected the kind of professional, efficient disaster relief that any American state would receive.

We know that didn't happen in the immediate aftermath. The response to Hurricane Maria was a disgrace, and if the administration wasn't plagued with scandals, gaffes, investigations, palace intrigue and non-stop misconduct and incompetence, the president's reaction to the disaster and his behavior when he went to visit would have been the low point. We've already seen one glaring example of corruption with the rewarding of a very expensive contract to restore power to an inexperienced friend of Trump's interior secretary Ryan Zinke. (The project is a mess.) That's just one of many shocking examples of Trump's malfeasance, almost forgotten now in the avalanche of news that's happened since.

However, Puerto Rico is still in serious crisis. The unofficial death toll, as gathered by CNN, is around 500 people. The LA Times reports that economist Tony Villamil, an expert on Puerto Rico, believes that it “going to take a decade at minimum for the island to recover and regain some sense of normalcy. The ports, the power grid, the highways all need to be rebuilt with significant improvements. There needs to be a strong public-private sector relationship that is developed to help in these efforts.”

To date, Congress has approved $5 billion in aid for Puerto Rico. Governor Ricardo Rossello has requested nearly $94 billion more. The chances of that happening with this GOP congress are remote, to say the least. Their priority is placating their wealthy benefactors with gigantic tax cuts.

The people of Puerto Rico are Americans, and like every other American, they can move wherever they want. And that is exactly what they are doing. The government's poor response has people leaving the island at a rate of 2,000 people a day. According to the New York Times, 168,000 Puerto Ricans have migrated to Florida since the hurricane, and many more are expected to migrate in the future. And since they know very well that the island is being neglected and it's presumed it will take years to repair, they are putting down roots on the mainland.

Unlike the Haitians and Nicaraguans who are in the U.S. on a temporary permit, they can stay. They can go to school, work and start businesses. They can also remember who it was that threw paper towels when he came to the island for a photo op and then never bothered to talk about the crisis again.

And they can do something else once they take up residency on the mainland: vote.

President Trump is in Florida for Thanksgiving. At some point during his sumptuous feast, perhaps the fact that he only won the state by 1.2 percent in the last election will come up in the conversation and maybe someone will mention that next time the state will be filled with new voters whose lives were upended by hurricane Maria. He will ask how long before they can be deported back to the island, and someone will tell him that they can stay as long as they like. It might just ruin his holiday.

By Peniel Joseph


Ending TPS for Haitians sends a chilling message to the over 400,000 immigrants living in the US under this status, he writes. Peniel Joseph is the Barbara Jordan Chair in Ethics and Political Values and the founding director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, where he is also a professor of history. He is the author of several books, most recently "Stokely: A Life." The views expressed here are his.

The Trump administration's decision to end Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haiti, originally granted through a humanitarian program begun under the administration of Republican President George Herbert Walker Bush in 1990, is morally reprehensible. Almost 60,000 Haitians relocated to the United States in the aftermath of 2010's devastating earthquake -- a natural disaster that left thousands dead, and crippled the island's transportation and material infrastructure. Now the Department of Homeland Security has ordered that they have to leave by July 2019 (or else face deportation if they do not, as John Kelly suggested in May, find another way to apply to stay in the United States).

The Haitians now facing threat of expulsion are some of the hardest working, loyal, and decent people our nation has. I write these words as both a historian and a proud Haitian-American whose mother taught me to revere America for offering boundless opportunities.

This decision is bad politics and worse policy, since 30,000 children, who are American citizens, have been born in the ensuing seven years and thus are being asked to leave the only country they have ever known. President Trump should intervene immediately to reverse this controversial decision. Mr. Trump recently displayed at least a modest willingness to reconsider unpopular policy changes. After an uproar over the announcement that the United States would allow the importing of elephant trophies hunted from Africa, the President, in an apparent change of heart, decided to put the decision on hold for further review. The scourge of big game elephant hunting, while serious, surely should not outweigh the value of the lives of so many Haitian families whose fates have been displaced by a disaster from which their country is still recovering.

Ending TPS for Haitians sends a chilling message to the over 400,000 immigrants from multiple nations living in the United States under this status. Perniciously, it dovetails with Mr. Trump's harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric, which buoyed his candidacy during the presidential election season and has been a feature of controversial executive order restrictions that continue to be litigated in the courts.

The President's actions betray the very ideals that make the United States a great nation: the notion that America serves as liberty's surest guardian, not because of the strength of our military or the vastness of our economic and material resources, but through the reach of our mercy.

America also has a complex and tortured history with Haiti, still too often described as the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere. Behind that stubborn poverty is a history that is too often forgotten, one in which America is deeply implicated. Haiti's evolution from a French colony of slaves to a republic of citizens between 1791 and 1804 made it the stuff of legend, one whose independence was deemed threatening by the architects of American democracy -- including President Thomas Jefferson, who refused to officially recognize a nation ruled by free blacks. African-Americans, then and later, looked toward Haiti as a beacon of hope. Among them was Frederick Douglass, the great abolitionist who served as US ambassador to Haiti and for whom Mr. Trump professed public admiration earlier this year.

As millions of Americans celebrate Thanksgiving, the very idea of America seems to be under threat -- not from external enemies but from within. Abandoning our shared moral values and humanitarian vision does not make us stronger, just the opposite. America's collective moral imagination recognizes the inherent dignity of the relatively small numbers of Haitian families being targeted by an administration that seems capable of showing more outrage about elephants than the futures of tens of thousands of women, children, and men who have found sanctuary in a nation that proudly claims to be not only a beacon of liberty and democracy, but of humanity as well


It felt bittersweet to Archbishop Thomas Wenski to have to hold a news conference stressing the importance of giving immigrants a path to citizenship on the day before the United States would celebrate its own roots. But that’s what he did Wednesday. Two days earlier, the Department of Homeland Security announced the end of Temporary Protected Status for Haitians, which offered between 50,000 and 60,000 refuge in the United States after the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti. The TPS program, enacted in 1990, affords nationals from countries facing natural disasters and other upheavals temporary residency. The Trump administration has given Haitians under TPS 18 months to leave, after which they would face deportation.

Advocates of the phase-out point out that the provision was never meant to provide permanent refuge. But from his own experiences traveling to the country in the past year, Wenski said Haiti isn’t ready to receive that many people back. And for those who have lived in America for nearly eight years, their homeland is no longer home.

“Home is here,” he said. On Wednesday, surrounded by journalists at St. Martha’s Catholic Church in Miami Shores, he called on Congress to pass bills proposed by Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo and Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson. Curbelo’s bill, which Wilson is co-sponsoring, would offer a path to permanent residency and citizenship to immigrants currently in the United States under TPS. Wilson plans to file a bill focusing on Haitians to allow those who meet certain requirements legal permanent residency.

“Eighteen months is a doable window, I think,” Wenski said. Sitting to Wenski’s left, Randolph McGrorty, the CEO of Catholic Legal Services, said that of the 50,000 to 60,000 Haitians who came under TPS after the quake, about one-third went to Miami-Dade. Since settling in the United States, they’ve had about 27,000 children who are citizens. McGrorty said he recommends those under TPS talk to a lawyer or a nonprofit with legal services about their options.

He urged people not to panic, noting that deportations have actually fallen since the last year of Barack Obama’s presidency. The difference is that deportation has gotten chaotic and random, he said. “Now anyone on the streets is open to being deported,” he said.

Marlene Bastien of the Haitian Women of Miami and other local leaders are host a press conference condemning the Trump administration's decision to end TPS for thousands of Haitians.

The two likened the current conversation to the 1980s, when South Florida found itself the new home to large communities of immigrants. McGrorty noted that Congress gave Cubans a path to residency, knowing they may not be able to return to Cuba immediately.

That first wave of immigration enriched the community, Wenski said, and this is a chance to show the rest of the country. McGrorty said every member of the South Florida congressional delegation is sponsoring legislation.

“I think we can tell people there’s nothing to fear about immigrants,” Wenski said. He said that as we enter Thanksgiving, people should reflect on what they’ve received from God and what they’ve received from each other. Much of the food on our tables will have been cultivated and harvested by immigrants, he said. “Thanksgiving is a holiday that has its roots in immigration,” he said. “As we give thanks, we’re not the self-made people we think we are."


By Moni Basu


Every Tuesday, Dady Jean brings her daughter to see a physical therapist on the eastern edges of Atlanta. On this afternoon, the animated movie "Up" entertains patients old and young as they wait for their sessions. At the appointed hour, therapist Antonio Pruitt leads Schnaika to a basement room outfitted with brightly colored equipment. He guides her through a series of squats, kicks and steps intended to improve her movement and balance. The pink and white beads in Schnaika's braids bob up and down on her forehead as she does her exercises.

Schnaika suffers from weakness in one side of her body, a condition called hemiparesis that constrains her movement. Her left hand dangles at odd angles as though it were broken, and she walks with a noticeable limp. She was only 16 months old when her home in Haiti collapsed in the 2010 earthquake. Slabs of concrete came tumbling down on her. Days later, American doctors treated her and brought her to Atlanta for long-term care.

I first met Schnaika when she and her mother arrived here. Doctors were uncertain then about the extent of the little girl's brain damage. She wore a helmet-like contraption to stabilize her head. Jean told me she was grateful for a new chance in life. She took classes to learn English, got a job and made sure Schnaika saw the doctor regularly. She knew her daughter might have died in Haiti and that her prospects would turn bleak again if she were to go back.

Recently, Jean's fears have heightened. The Trump administration has announced that a special provision called Temporary Protected Status, which grants Jean and Schnaika the right to stay in America, is set to expire in 20 months. Nearly 60,000 Haitians must go back to their homeland by July 22, 2019, or face deportation. The date seems like a long time away. But for Jean, the clock is ticking fast.

How will she cope in Haiti with Schnaika's increasingly complex medical problems, which have recently included life-threatening seizures? Schnaika, 9, suffers weakness in the left side of her body and sees therapist Antonio Pruitt once a week.

Survival in America was never easy for Jean. These days, it is compounded by an uncertainty that permeates every facet of her life. She is more afraid now, she says, than she was immediately after the earthquake. None of her options look good. She can choose to return to Haiti before the termination date or wait to be caught and forcibly sent back. Or she can opt to continue her life in America without legal status and join the millions of undocumented immigrants who live in the shadows.

Jean tells me she feels as though a raging fire is getting ever closer and all she can do is wait to see if she'll get burned. The United States granted Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, to Haitians after the catastrophic earthquake in January 2010. More than 200,000 people were killed; another 1.5 million people were displaced from their homes. Haiti was already a crushingly poor country with massive corruption; after the quake, billions of dollars in aid were sent, but the expected rebuilding did not materialize. A post-quake cholera epidemic dealt another blow -- more than half a million people fell ill and at least 10,000 died. Hurricane Mathew in 2016 added to the suffering.

For all these reasons, the United States extended TPS for Haitians several times. But it won't anymore. Last month, then-acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke determined that "those extraordinary but temporary conditions caused by the 2010 earthquake no longer exist."

Jean cannot comprehend how that determination was made. She has no home left in Haiti. And while her oldest son and daughter are still there, she doubts she will be able to secure a job that will pay enough to support all four of her children, the youngest of whom was born here and is a US citizen. She doubts her homeland, still reeling from disasters, can absorb so many of its citizens returning home all at once.

Jean fills out job applications at a Goodwill near her apartment in Clarkston, Georgia. Besides, Jean has lived and worked in America for the better part of a decade, and roots have taken hold. She even sat down for a turkey dinner on Thanksgiving Day. "It has been almost eight years," she tells me one evening at her apartment in Clarkston, a town just east of Atlanta that is home to a large refugee population. "I have nothing in Haiti. I have nothing to show there."

Not that life has been without struggles in Atlanta. Although TPS allows her to work here, she lost her job last summer at a chicken processing plant and is still looking frantically for new employment. "What would you like to do?" I ask. "I will do anything," she replies. "Anything."

On the table before her is a pile of bills, including ones for a hospital visit after an October car accident. She doesn't know how she will pay the almost $10,000 she owes. She visited the career center at a Goodwill near her apartment to apply for an assembly line job at a bakery. She heard about another job at a company that makes lotions and soaps. She hopes she can get hired at one of those places. Maybe before Christmas. Then she will be able to send money for gifts to her sister and children in Haiti.

In her dreams, Jean sees her legal status resolved so she can board a plane to Port-au-Prince and touch her loved ones again. She realizes that soon the day might come when she will be doing exactly that, but not by choice. Nor will she be able to return any time soon to the life she made in America. In the last few decades, the United States has granted TPS status to people who have hailed from 22 nations and territories ravaged by war, violence or natural disaster. Besides Haiti, nine other nations have that status: Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, Yemen and Nepal.

The humanitarian measure, established by the Immigration Act of 1990, was designed to protect people who would otherwise face strong hardship upon return to homelands deemed dangerous, according to the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington-based nonpartisan think tank.

But the White House is taking aim at the program. It has announced TPS will also end for Sudanese in November 2018 and Nicaraguans in January 2019. In January, it will decide whether to extend TPS for Salvadorans, the largest group of recipients. If their status is not extended, nearly 350,000 people in all will find themselves in the same predicament as Jean: living every day in fear.

Earlier this year, Haitians marched to keep their protected status at an immigration office in Broward County, Florida. The TPS decisions fall in line with the Trump administration's immigration policy, which also phases out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for so-called "Dreamers." The TPS program, as the name says, was always meant to be temporary. But the problem, say immigrant advocates, is that the United States has repeatedly extended TPS for several nations, including Haiti, allowing hundreds of thousands of people like Jean to settle in America.

Is it fair to send someone back home after such a long time? And what if their native land is unprepared to receive them? These questions are at the heart of the controversy surrounding the Trump administration's decisions. "I don't see how anyone in good conscience can do this" says Paedia Mixon, CEO of New American Pathways, an Atlanta agency that helps resettle refugees.

Emmanuel Depas, an immigration attorney in New York, argues the TPS decisions amount to a humanitarian crisis in the making. Ultimately, he says, it's a reflection of the failure of the current immigration system. "You can't solve a problem by terminating the program. It's inhumane," he says. "Congress should have acted years ago and provided an avenue for these people to gain lawful status. They have been here for so long. They pay taxes, they pay into the system."

Lawmakers in Washington have paid heed. Several bills have been introduced in the House, and while they vary in their stipulations, they would provide avenues for TPS holders to apply for permanent residency as long as they have not been convicted of crimes. But the bills have a long way to go, and lawyers like Depas have their hands full with clients facing uncertain futures. "When you give somebody something," Depas says, "it's difficult to just take it away."

Jean knows that firsthand. "I miss home a lot but I don't want to go back," she says. "Things are very bad there." Her friends talk about the possibility of deportation. Some have even discussed going to Canada. Immigrant advocates protested the TPS decision in New York, home to a large number of Haitians.

Long before the TPS decision was announced, Haitians, like other immigrants, began fleeing the United States. It began with candidate Donald Trump's inflammatory campaign rhetoric calling Mexicans rapists and criminals, his pledge to build a wall on the southern border and then, as President, his attempts to enact travel bans against Muslim nations.

Many headed for Canada. Others felt trapped behind the southern border. No country in North America, it seemed, wanted the Haitians. Last year, Johnny Ciceron and Emanuela Faustin arrived and met in Tijuana, hoping to cross from the Mexican border city into San Diego. They had abandoned their lives in their homeland separately and for different reasons, and had been on their arduous journeys, sometimes without food or water, for years.

Ciceron left Haiti in 2013 because, he said, he feared for his life after being heavily involved in a political campaign for a presidential candidate who lost. He made too many enemies, he says. The two first crossed paths in Ecuador. They both thought TPS for Haitians would offer them a chance to live and work in the United States legally. Ciceron arrived in Tijuana about the time Trump was elected. Almost immediately, he says, rumors started circulating, warning of what Trump's anti-immigrant sentiment meant for Haitians.

They heard stories, true or not, of Haitians in the United States being detained, deported or both. The thought of crossing into the United States simply to get deported was enough to make them stay put in Tijuana. As their wait-and-see strategy stretched for months, their romance blossomed. But Mexico is far from ideal. They are not happy there, they say. They also don't know if Mexico will renew their permits to remain. But news of the end of TPS for Haitians was a blow to their motivation, and their hope. They would rather stay in Mexico than be undocumented in America. "My dream died in Tijuana," Faustin says.

Mimose Joseph's journey was to the other US border. She and her 13-year-old daughter, Melissa Paul, made their way from their home in Belle Glade, Florida, to Plattsburgh, New York, where they were to board a taxi for the ride just outside Quebec. Joseph came from Haiti to Florida in 2002. Melissa was born there and is a US citizen. But they left because they could not stand the growing stress. They found it difficult to live with the uncertainty.

For Melissa, it meant leaving the only country she has ever known. "It's kind of shocking and a little bit sad," she says. "But I know it's for the best." They were not alone in their flight north. Thousands of desperate people panicked and have already fled into Canada, hoping to receive asylum there.

Canada and the United States signed a safe country agreement that effectively forces asylum seekers to request protection in the first country they entered after leaving their homeland. The intention was to prevent people who were refused in one country to then try in the other.

If Haitians enter Canada legally at a border crossing point and ask for refugee status, they will likely be turned back. Instead, they have been taking risks and crossing illegally with hopes of being arrested so they can then make a case for asylum after they are already in Canada. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police intercepted 17,000 people from January to October, according to its monthly reports. Among them are about 10,000 Haitians, says Stephane Handfield, an immigration attorney in Montreal.

Most came last summer, after the Trump administration first signaled TPS might end. They approached the border in cars, buses and trains and then walked across. They flooded YMCAs, university dorms and even the Olympic Stadium in Montreal. The exodus was buoyed by Canada's reputation as being immigrant friendly. They had heard how Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had welcomed Syrian refugees. They knew about his tweet, posted on the day of protests against Trump's first Muslim travel ban.

To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada

But Canada hardly offers any guarantees.

Those asking for asylum are processed, and if they have no criminal records, they are released to wait for their day in court. The first hearing dates are not until June, Handfield says, because the courts are backed up and there are not enough lawyers or judges to handle the caseload.

Their day in court is no easy ride, either, Handfield says. Jean fears having to return to Haiti, and wonders where will she be able to get the medical care for her daughter. They have to convince Canadian authorities of a well founded fear of persecution and death if they are returned to Haiti -- not an easy feat, Handfield says. Or they must prove they have a family member in Canada. "They do not want to go back to Haiti, because they are afraid for their lives. But if they cannot prove one or the other, they will be deported," Handfield says.

With that comes the risk of being separated from their US-born children; Canada will insist on returning them back across the border. Canada is bracing for an even bigger crisis. Recently, members of Parliament visited the United States to discourage Haitian and Central American TPS holders from unlawfully entering Canada.

If the Trump administration decides not to extend TPS to El Salvador, Handfield expects many thousands to rush to the border. "There is nothing we can do. We are obligated to receive them and those cases will have to be heard," Handfield says. "But the situation will get untenable."

On that wretched January evening in 2010 when the earth began convulsing in Haiti, Jean was not at home. She raced through the streets of Port-au-Prince, past mountains of concrete chunks and mangled rebar, past bodies, to the two-bedroom house she rented with her common-law husband and their three children.

The house had come tumbling down; Jean's common-law husband was missing. (He lived but has since moved in with another woman.) Jean's two older children, Stephanie and Steve, survived. So did her toddler, Schnaika. But a wall had fallen on her, and she was bleeding badly.

The hospitals and clinics had sustained damage, and the ones that were still standing hardly had the resources to conduct the surgery Schnaika needed. Nine days passed in desperation until Jean stumbled upon American doctors who transported mother and child to the USNS Comfort, a Navy ship outfitted with state-of-the-art trauma facilities to support disaster relief around the world.

After the ship's doctors operated on Schnaika, Jean had fully expected to be returned to Port-au-Prince. But the United States allowed her to enter on humanitarian parole so that Schnaika could receive the follow-up care she needed at a pediatric hospital. Later, Jean and Schnaika were granted TPS. In Atlanta, doctors diagnosed Schnaika with traumatic brain injury, speech and lung deficits and developmental delays. She also did not have full use of her left hand and leg.

Today, Jean takes Schnaika for her 30-minute weekly therapy session. Afterwards, back at her apartment, Jean and I look at photos of her children. Stephanie is 15 now, Steve, 11. Three years ago, she had another boy, Terry, with a Liberian man she met in Atlanta. "He's a Grady baby," she says proudly, using a popular reference to Grady Memorial, Atlanta's public hospital. Being born at Grady identifies a person as a true Atlanta native.

In 18 years, when Terry turns 21, he will have the right to sponsor his mother for a visa to the United States. Until then, Jean has few options. The TPS program does not provide a path to citizenship. When she no longer has TPS and has to return to Haiti, she will be separated from Terry, who will likely stay in the United States with his father. But her biggest worry is over Schnaika.

Jean learned English and worked hard to provide for her children. Schnaika has no memories of Haiti. But their welcome in the United States is fast running out. She is 9 now and in the third grade at Smoke Rise Elementary. She likes to ride the bus to school and chat with her friends. She also loves to eat macaroni and cheese.

Recently, Schnaika started having seizures. Jean took her to the emergency room, where doctors prescribed two medicines -- diazepam and levetiracetam. "Schnaika will not be able to get these in Haiti," Jean tells me.

When I first met Jean after the earthquake, she told me she felt incredibly lucky. She had survived. Schnaika had survived. I watched her pray at a Sunday church service, her eyes closed and arms stretched upward. She believed her good fortune was God's way of telling her that life was starting again. She was determined to make the most of that opportunity. And she did.

That is why the uncertainty now is overbearing, she tells me. And the prospect of deportation feels like a massive fire inching toward her. I think of a scene in the movie, "Up," that Jean and I had watched in the waiting room of the physical therapy office. Our eyes were fixed on the screen as the main character attached helium-powered balloons to his house and floated over clouds to a place he and his beloved late wife had always dreamed of visiting.

Jean wishes balloons could lift her away to her own paradise, where she could be with all her family -- both in the United States and Haiti -- and lead a decent life. But she can see no easy way there. She did not ask to come to America. She did not ask to leave, either. But the choice, it seems, has been made for her.

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