Will President Trump do better by Haitians than President Obama did?

By Patricia Elizee, Esq.

Currently, an estimated 58,000 Haitians are living in the United States with Temporary Protective Status (TPS). TPS is a special immigration status that is meant to be TEMPORARY in nature and given to nationals of countries where the US feels that it would be inhumane to send them back to their home country due to natural disasters or civil unrest. Haitians were granted TPS in 2010 after the devastating earthquake. Yes, it has been seven years since the designation, however, the country still has not recovered and there has been a series of additional disasters since. TPS for Haitians needs to be re-designated by President Trump.

President Trump’s current USCIS director has recommended that TPS not be renewed because, according to him, conditions in Haiti no longer support a TPS designation. I respectfully disagree. Haiti is currently facing a humanitarian crisis. A possible mass deportation of Haitians from the United States will worsen the situation and will crumble the country’s vulnerable infrastructure. Seven years later, Haiti still has not recovered from the earthquake. Billions of dollars were pledged for the rebuilding of Haiti from the international community. However, the money was either mismanaged or used for other purposes, like we saw with the Red Cross debacle. With $500 Million donated, the Red Cross managed to only build six homes in Haiti. After the earthquake, UN soldiers dumped human remains in a river causing a Cholera outbreak. Cholera has killed 9,393 people in Haiti, and left 790,840 people sick as of August 20, 2016.

In September of 2016, Category Four Hurricane Matthew hit the Southern section of Haiti. Over 1,000 people died and more than 20,000 homes were destroyed. A larger outbreak of Cholera was expected as a result of the hurricane. President Obama’s administration decided to start deporting Haitians back to Haiti even after the devastation caused by Hurricane Matthew. This was a mistake and a clear disregard for human suffering.

USCIS’ assertions that conditions have improved enough in Haiti to warrant a change in policy are misguided. Then candidate Trump came to Little Haiti, in Miami, and told the Haitian community “I really want to be your biggest champion.” Mr. President, this is the time for you to keep your promise. Renewing TPS for Haitians follows current immigration guidelines of designating a foreign country for TPS due to conditions in the country that temporarily prevent the country’s nationals from returning safely, or in certain circumstances, where the country is unable to handle the return of its nationals adequately. Haiti is still recovering from the earthquake, the cholera outbreak, and the recent hurricane. These 58,000 Haitian TPS holders are vetted every year. They have no criminal records, are hard-working, pay taxes, and have resided in the US for at least seven years. Even under President Trump’s administration, they do not rank high for removal priorities. At this time, it makes both logical and economic sense to renew TPS for Haitians. It will cost tax payers more money to deport these low priority immigrants than it would to renew the TPS designation.

Patricia Elizee is the managing partner of Elizee Law Firm, a Miami-based immigration and family law firm. She is the immediate past president of the Haitian Lawyers Association.