TPS: The Haitian Debate

By Erica Laidler (Editor-in-Chief).

Nowhere to live, contagious diseases, contaminated water, a stalled economy, damaged infrastructure: this is the situation which 58,000 Haitian-born American immigrants would have again faced this July if Trump’s administration voted against prolonging their stay on May 23.

In January 2010, after a devastating earthquake in Haiti killed over 250,000 citizens and displaced 1.5 million, the US government offered over $40 million in aid and classified the country with Temporary Protected Status (TPS).

Recently, however, US immigration officials were considering allowing for the expiration of the program, which currently permits Haitian citizens to work, live, and wait out the crisis in the US. The DHS chose to extend the program for just six months, allowing Haitian TPS recipients “time to attain travel documents and make other necessary arrangements for their ultimate departure.”

“I believe that as one of the most powerful nations on Earth as well as one of the wealthiest it is our responsibility to help, especially with humanitarian crises,” said SHS Spanish teacher Mr. Brillant, who supports the extension of TPS.

He added that as US citizens, it is important to view ourselves “as leaders and models for other nations – because we are in this position of power it is our responsibility to help.”

Chief of policy at the US Citizenship and Immigration Services Kathy Nuebel Kovarik sent out emails earlier this month requesting that employees “squeeze more data out of our systems” about Haitian TPS immigrants’ criminal activity, frequency of home visits to Haiti (as proof of financial stability), and benefit from US programs.

Some suspected Kovarik was searching for reasons to end the TPS program. An editorial from The Boston Globe called her efforts “unprecedented” and “malicious” because normally officials focus on the hardships within the country, and not the criminal activity of their immigrants in the US, when considering the extension of TPS.

Senior Jonathan Dickerman says officials should take into account a number of factors in these kinds of situations. “First and foremost [should be if] Haiti is ready to have its citizens go back but I think there are also other issues,” he said.

“In hotels if you’re causing a racket you’re often asked to leave…Are [the Haitians] being upstanding members of society and are they giving back to us? Whether or not that should have make or break it I’m not sure but I think there should be a holistic way to look at this program,” added Dickerman.

Applicants for the temporary stay already face FBI background checks and are refused access upon evidence of previous felonies or multiple misdemeanors. Immigration supporters argue that removing TPS based on the crimes of a few Haitians unfairly hurts thousands of innocent beneficiaries.

Outraged by Trump’s failure to protect Haitians and serve as their “greatest champion” in the way he promised to back in September during a pivotal campaign speech in Miami, a crowd of protesters gathered again in Little Haiti to hold signs and chant “TPS Yes, Deportation No” and “Haitian Lives Matter.”

History teacher Ms. Malcolm says the administration’s method of appraising the situation was misguided, and believes Haiti should keep TPS for many years to come. “If people care about money…Haitians provide a boost to our economy,” she said.

According to a press release earlier this month, ending TPS would reduce the US GDP by $2.8 billion in the next 10 years and decrease Social Security and Medicare contributions by $428 million.

Malcolm adds that simply funneling money into Haiti’s government, while necessary, is not a panacea on its own.

“Unfortunately the Haitian government…has a long history of corruption and mismanagement. We’ve tried [sending money] and we should continue to do that but in the meantime we should try to do as much as we can and try to help struggling Haitians,” she said.

After his visit to Haiti sophomore year, Dickerman says he can understand why the TPS classification has stood for so long.

“There was some infrastructure but obviously signs of it being an impoverished nation,” he said. “They have very spaced-out communities with very makeshift homes and overall a lack of continuity in communities like we see here in the US.”

For many, the attempt to end TPS is just another byproduct of the Trump administration’s widespread effort to halt the influx of immigrants from struggling areas of the world.

Since appointment, Trump has attempted to stop the flow of government money to sanctuary cities which hold illegal immigrants, halt catch and release at the border despite very limited jail space, and prevent the influx of immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

Ultimately the TPS decision, which was reserved for the head of the Department of Homeland Security John Kelley, might also suggest the outcome of similar situations in El Salvador and Honduras.

According to The Boston Globe, in these countries a failure to extend TPS before the expiration dates (in September and next January, respectively) could mean the deportation of 350,000 Central Americans back to their dangerous countries of origin.

The Haitian citizens living in the US will face this crisis again right before January 18, when TPS is newly set to expire.

Brillant says it can help to put a human face on the problem: “So many people say ‘Oh, what a pain’, but are you going to look at a little child who lost his parents and say, ‘Oh, what a pain’?”

“It is a debate but we are in a position to [provide aid],” added Brillant. “And if we don’t, who will? Are going to allow suffer or are we going to be the nation we should be and help?”

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