Extend immigration protection for 59,000 Haitians

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59,000 Haitians were granted temporary protected status (TPS) after the 2010 earthquake that ravaged Haiti, leaving over 200,000 people dead, over 1.5 million people displaced and nearly 4,000 schools damaged or destroyed (CNN, 2016). This protection allowed displaced Haitians to legally reside in the U.S. for the past seven years. During this time many Haitians created new lives, including starting families and pursuing careers. 

"...extraordinary but temporary conditions caused by the 2010 earthquake no longer exist."

Acting Secretary Elaine Duke of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently announced that the TPS for Haitians was terminated. Any immigrants under this provision have 18 months to return to Haiti or seek "alternative lawful immigration status in the United States, if eligible" (Madhani, 2017). Acting Secretary Duke "...made the decision that extraordinary temporary conditions on which the special protections were issued 'no longer exist'" (Madhani, 2017).

While Haiti has made some improvements, there is still much work to be done. 

"Haitians continue to suffer years after the earthquake," U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator Mourad Wahba said in an interview with TheWorldPost in January of this year (Cook, 2017). He noted that in January of this year there were still 55,000 people living in "camps and makeshift camps." There are numerous concerns about Haiti's ability to handle more people as the Dominican Republic expelled more than 40,000 people to Haiti between 2015 and 2016, and another 68,000 returned out of fear of persecution and violence (Amnesty International, 2016). Jesselyn Cook, a journalist for the Huffington Post, writes that "This will place strenuous demands on Haiti's crippled agriculture sector and leave many returnees in limbo, without homes or jobs awaiting them” (2017).

Haiti seems to move forward one step only to be shoved back three by droughts, strikes by public-health workers due to lack of pay, famine, cholera, the Zika virus and natural disasters (Miroff, 2016). Just last year the number of Haitians who faced “severe” food insecurity doubled to nearly 1.5 million due to drought and the subsequent food shortage (Simmons, 2016). When coupled with the number of those who struggle to access reliable sources of food on a regular basis, that amount more than doubled to 3.6 million people, over a third of the country’s entire population. Numerous articles cite Haiti as “the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere,” with over 2.5 million Haitians living on less than the equivalent of $1.25 a day (Moloney, 2016).

For those who would want to fight to stay, the process to become a U.S. citizen can be both costly and long. Immigration lawyers can charge as much as $5,000, with some cases costing as much as $15,000 (Ribitzky, YEAR). This estimate is for one individual and may not take into account additional application fees or any potential family members. The process can take years, time Haitians who were protected under TPS no longer have. 

A bi-partisan issue

Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers from Florida, the state currently housing the largest Haitian population, responded with derision to the announcement from DHS (Madhani, 2017). Senator Bill Nelson, D-Fla., replied via Twitter: “There is no reason to send 60,000 Haitians back to a country that cannot provide for them. This decision today by DHS is unconscionable. And I am strongly urging the administration to reconsider” (Madhani, 2017). Representative Mario Diaz-Balart, a Republican from Fort Lauderale, released the following statement: “These individuals are established, respected members of our communities who have made significant contributions and I urge the administration to reconsider its decision regarding Haitian and Nicaraguan nationals” (Madhani, 2017).

 “Haiti is chaos.”

I traveled to Haiti in June of this year through the Global Orphan Project. Within minutes of arriving my eyes were opened to suffering on a scale I couldn’t even fathom. Hills of trash fall into waterways where children play and swim. We were instructed never to drink water from the tap and to rely instead on bottles. We were also warned that electricity could come and go without warning. Armed guards stood at the entrances to gas stations. Traffic was a perpetual mash of cars, trucks, vans and buses, with motorcyclists weaving in and out, sometimes balancing livestock or even babies between their legs. I held a four year-old girl who was closer to the size of a two year-old because of malnutrition. The majority of the buildings I saw had bars on the windows and doors or broken glass cemented into the tops of walls.

I asked a member of my group who had been to Haiti multiple times if this was left over from the earthquake. “No,” she replied. “The reality is that Haiti looked a lot like this before the earthquake.”

We spoke with managers of GOEX, a clothing production center in Port-au-Prince that provides living wage jobs. While they employ as many as they can, one man estimated that every time they advertise a job opening through word-of-mouth, hundreds to over a thousand people will show up outside their gates within 24 to 72 hours.

Another man I spoke with, a U.S. citizen who was working in Haiti for a non-profit organization but whose parents were both Haitian, summed it up in one sentence: “Haiti is chaos.”

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” -Aesop

This petition is not intended to discount the efforts and progress the Haitian government, the U.S. government and non-profit organizations have made. But the sad reality is that Haiti is not currently in a place to offer jobs, education or support for thousands of people who have begun new lives in the United States and become a part of their local communities. It also forces many families to decide whether to make arrangements for their U.S.-born children to be forced apart from their loved ones or travel to and make a new life in an impoverished country.

As we kick off the holiday season this week with Thanksgiving and celebrate being together with our loved ones, let's extend kindness and compassion to a group of people who have been through so much hardship and yet continue to rise and carry on despite the many obstacles thrown in their path. Please sign this petition to call on the Department of Homeland Security to extend TPS for Haitians for seven years.

Resources

Amnesty International. (2016, June 15). Haiti/Dominican Republic: Reckless deportations leaving thousands in limbo. Retrieved from https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2016/06/haiti-dominican-republic-reckless-deportations-leaving-thousands-in-limbo/

CBS News. (2017, Nov. 21). U.S. plans to end temporary residency permit program for Haiti.

CNN. (2016, Dec. 28). Haiti Earthquake Fast Facts. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/12/world/haiti-earthquake-fast-facts/index.html

Cook, J. (2017, Jan. 13). 7 years after Haiti's earthquake, millions still need aid. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/haiti-earthquake-anniversary_us_5875108de4b02b5f858b3f9c

Madhani, A. (2017, Nov. 20). Trump administration to send Haiti earthquake victims home in 2019. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2017/11/20/trump-administration-send-haiti-earthquake-victims-home-18-months/883328001/

Miroff, N. (2016, June 16). Haiti needs food, jobs doctors-and now a president. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/haiti-needs-food-jobs-doctors--and-now-a-president/2016/06/15/6eb20928-3171-11e6-ab9d-1da2b0f24f93_story.html?utm_term=.32db9d3a379e

Moloney, A. (2016, Jan. 20). Haiti needs new approach to make aid effective, bring jobs, skills: ex-PM. Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-haiti-aid/haiti-needs-new-approach-to-make-aid-effective-bring-jobs-skills-ex-pm-idUSKCN0UY28U

Mulheir, G. (2015, June 25). Thousands of children are living in orphanages in Haiti-but not because they are orphans. Retrieved from http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/thousands-of-children-are-living-in-orphanages-in-haiti-but-not-because-they-are-orphans-10345063.html

Ribitzky, R. (YEAR, July 3). Path to U.S. citizenship costly, tedious. Retrieved from http://abcnews.go.com/Business/story?id=87996&page=1

Simmons, A. (2016, Feb. 11). Drought compounds food crisis in Haiti. Retrieved from http://beta.latimes.com/world/la-fg-haiti-food-insecurity-20160210-story.html

 *Photo credit: ABC News (2016). Retrieved from http://abcnews.go.com/International/photos/hurricane-matthew-makes-landfall-caribbean-42551617/image-43026979



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