Standing at the crossroads of xenophobia and anti-Black racism, Haitian migrants have long suffered various forms of discriminatory abuse in the U.S.
Residents of the impoverished Caribbean nation were extended temporary protected status, or TPS, after the catastrophic 2010 earthquake that ruined Haiti's infrastructure and claimed nearly 200,000 lives.
In a letter that circulated through the press last week, acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services James McCament suggested that the temporary protections be tapered off after January for a “period of orderly transition,” after which Haitian migrants in the U.S. would lose their right to work and reside in the country.
U.S. immigration authorities grant TPS to foreign nationals facing displacement or danger from natural disasters, epidemics or political instability if they are deported to their home countries. Haitians have repeatedly been granted the reprieve, renewed every 18 months since the 2010 earthquake.
McCament argues that conditions on the island have improved enough to end protections for Haitians. The statement echoes similar messaging from the Obama administration, whose Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said last October that conditions in Haiti had “improved sufficiently to permit the U.S. government to remove Haitian nationals on a more regular basis."
According to ICE data, deportations of Haitians skyrocketed last November, reversing a policy whereby unauthorized Haitians were allowed to stay in the United States provided they didn't have a criminal record.
The elimination of temporary protections for tens of thousands of migrants would open the door to the mass detention and expulsion of Haitian refugees, escalating an already-dire situation in a country that remains plagued by cholera, poverty, foreign occupation and the aftermath of last year's deadly Category 4 Hurricane Matthew, a disaster that itself displaced tens of thousands of people, creating a major housing shortage and propelling new waves of refugees toward surrounding countries.
"What they're trying to argue is the temporary aspect of this has ended and we've returned to, 'Haiti as it was, always poor,'" former DHS senior counselor Esther Olivaria told USA Today. "But that's just not the case," she added, noting that the implementation of TPS removal “would be a travesty.”
The final decision on removing protections for Haitian migrants lies with DHS Secretary John Kelly.
“The bottom line is that conditions in Haiti have not improved to an extent that would remotely justify the end of TPS,” said Benjamin Johnson, executive director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, to immigration reform group America's Voice. “The elimination of TPS for Haiti will not only create immense hardships for close to 47,000 Haitian individuals who have lived in the United States under the protection of this program for more than seven years, it will also impact their children, many of whom are U.S. citizens, and their families back home, who rely on remittances for their basic needs.”
- Countries: Haiti