May 7, 2017
By Joyce Rothermel
In late May, the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitians in the U.S. was extended 6 months by the Department of Homeland Security. Special immigrant status for Haitians was put in place in 2010 to provide protection following the terrible earthquake that killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced over a million more. TPS has allowed over 55,000 Haitians to rebuild their lives, to work and to safely raise a family here, while sending funds home to support loved ones in Haiti.
The recovery in Haiti has been painfully slow. Money pledged to rebuild homes has not been fulfilled in some cases. Last fall’s catastrophic Hurricane Matthew presented another setback. Tens of thousands of homes and schools were destroyed, along with agricultural crops and livestock, resulting in widespread food insecurity. The cholera epidemic, already the worst in the world, has intensified. In the face of these calamities, the economy in Haiti remains unstable.
In December 2016, former Secretary of State John Kerry recommended that TPS be extended due to continued instability in Haiti. However, in what seems to be a drastic departure from this prior recommendation, the acting director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), James McCament, recently stated he believed that circumstances in Haiti have improved and do not warrant the full extension of TPS. On the campaign trail last September, Donald Trump visited Little Haiti in Miami, Florida and vowed to be a champion for the Haitian-American community.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is recommending that the United States end TPS for Haitians altogether by January 2018. If TPS does expire, Haiti will not be able to support 50,000 dislocated Haitians and communities across the U.S., including Disney World and Little Haiti in Florida, would suffer from the loss of many prominent and active community members.
As Marleine Bastien, executive director of Haitian Women of Miami, explained when interviewed by Amy Goodman last month, “…these people are really living in fear of deportation, because they have their families to consider, they have their businesses to consider, there are their homes, you know, to consider. So, it is really creating and wreaking havoc in thousands of families in this country.”
To let TPS for Haiti expire, or to end it altogether, would mean turning our backs on the vulnerable Haitians whom we pledged to welcome, and would place considerable burdens on the country as it struggles to recover from multiple natural disasters. TPS was created to provide protection in the United States to those for whom it is unsafe to return home – precisely the conditions Haiti continues to face. TPS must be extended for at least another 18 months. To do otherwise would undermine the reason it was originally created.TPS represents the best of our American values of hospitality, generosity, and compassion.
Raise your voice now by telling Congress and the Department of Homeland Security to extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haiti! Call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202)224-3121 today.
Joyce Rothermel is convener of the Pittsburgh Haiti Solidarity Committee.