On January 12, 2010, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit Haiti. While there is a dispute over the number of deaths (claims range from 10,000 to 316,000–kind of hard to wrap your mind around that kind of a range of estimates) there is no dispute over two things: Haiti was left, improbable as it may sound, is much worse condition than it had been in on January 11 and around a million Haitians decided to leave the country. In response to the disaster, the Obama administration granted “temporary protected status” (TPS) to about 59,000 Haitians. This allowed them to live and work in the US legally despite not being legal immigrants. This status, by the way, was not uniquely used by the Obama administration and Haitians are not the largest nationality. That designation would be El Salvadorans (some 212,000) who have had the status since 2001.
Yesterday, the Trump administration announced that it would not be extending the TPS for Haitians and all Haitians who came to the US after the 2010 earthquake had until July 22, 2019 to find a way to make themselves eligible for legal residency or to leave the country.
Today, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke announced her decision to terminate the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for Haiti with a delayed effective date of 18 months to allow for an orderly transition before the designation terminates on July 22, 2019. This decision follows then-Secretary Kelly’s announcement in May 2017 that Haiti had made considerable progress, and that the country’s designation will likely not be extended past six months.
The decision to terminate TPS for Haiti was made after a review of the conditions upon which the country’s original designation were based and whether those extraordinary but temporary conditions prevented Haiti from adequately handling the return of their nationals, as required by statute. Based on all available information, including recommendations received as part of an inter-agency consultation process, Acting Secretary Duke determined that those extraordinary but temporary conditions caused by the 2010 earthquake no longer exist. Thus, under the applicable statute, the current TPS designation must be terminated.
Not unsurprisingly, there are about 59,000 Haitians who are damned unhappy:
“I received a shock right now,” Gerald Michaud, 45, a Haitian who lives in Brooklyn, said when he heard the news. He has been working at La Guardia Airport as a wheelchair attendant, sending money to family and friends back home. He said he feared for his welfare and safety back in Haiti now that his permission to remain in the United States was ending.
“The situation is not good in my country,” he said. “I don’t know where I am able to go.”
And a lot of other people:
A variety of American groups, including the Congressional Black Caucus, the United States Chamber of Commerce and immigrant advocacy organizations had urged the Trump administration to extend the protections again. On Monday, Senator Bill Nelson, Democrat of Florida, called the decision “unconscionable.”
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. Ultimately, we need a permanent legislative solution. https://t.co/Ft0bE0itf6
— Senator Bill Nelson (@SenBillNelson) November 21, 2017
I travelled to #Haiti after the earthquake in 2010 and after hurricane Matthew in 2016. So I can personally attest that #Haiti is not prepared to take back nearly 60,000 #TPS recipients under these difficult and harsh conditions.
— Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (@RosLehtinen) November 21, 2017
I’m not sure I’m allowed to post this next quote because I’ve been told over and over that anchor babies don’t exist outside of a xenophobic mythos that involves tiki torches, but is seems like a lot of anchor babies have been created:
Nearly 30,000 children have been born in the United States to Haitians with protected status. Those children are citizens and entitled to stay. Some of their parents may seek to avoid deportation by claiming it would cause extreme hardship to a United States-born child, but that option is limited.
Most will soon have to make a wrenching decision: take their children back to Haiti; leave them with relatives or guardians in the United States; or remain in the country illegally and risk arrest and deportation.
Mark Silverman, an attorney and director of policy at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center in San Francisco, said that if they are arrested, they would be entitled to deportation hearings. And contesting their cases “gives them at least seven to 10 years,” he said, because of the long backlogs in the immigration courts.
And Haiti is probably not going to help.
The decision is sure to be felt in Haiti, where remittances from the Haitian diaspora totaled $2.36 billion in 2016, an increase of 7 percent over the previous year, according to the World Bank. That money represented more than one-fourth of the country’s national income.
Just think about that one paragraph. Remittances from fewer than 59,000 Haitians (I’m not sure how many of them are employed but definitely less than 59,000) working, for the most part, at fairly low paying jobs accounts for a quarter of that nation’s income.
This is just the most highly visible action to wind down TPS designations. Nicaraguans and Hondurans have already received the news:
Today, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke announced her decision to terminate the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for Nicaragua with a delayed effective date of 12 months to allow for an orderly transition before the designation terminates on January 5, 2019. She also determined that additional information is necessary regarding the TPS designation for Honduras, and therefore has made no determination regarding Honduras at this time. As a result of the inability to make a determination, the TPS designation for Honduras will be automatically extended for six months from the current January 5, 2018 date of expiration to the new expiration date of July 5, 2018.
Just wait for the howling around next March when over 200,000 Salvadorans are told they had about a year and a half to get their affairs in order and leave.