Congress must step up and help Haitian TPS recipients
The Trump administration has ended Temporary Protected Status for Haitians who have lived — and thrived and prospered — in the United States since the 2010 earthquake shook much of their country to the ground. It’s a dismaying decision, but not unexpected.
This clearly is not the best news for Haitians with TPS. They will be able to stay in this country until 2019. But by July of that year, they will have to return to Haiti or be subject to deportation and, almost as bad, detention. That means people who are strongly woven into the fabric of this community, and other cities; whose children — some born in America — are excelling in school; and whose remittances help families in the still-fractured nation, will be lost to this community. And that is a shame.
However, it’s not the worst news — yet: Advocates mounted a resolute and vocal campaign pushing the Trump administration to extend TPS coverage for another 18 months. To President Trump’s credit, that is what his administration decided to do. Credit, too, Florida’s congressional delegation for making a strong pitch on behalf of these TPS recipients. They made it clear that Haiti, perpetually struggling, is in no way ready or able to absorb as many as 59,000 Haitians who would have to return.
In addition, they have a chance to legalize their status here; and there are several bills in Congress that could give them, and TPS recipients from Central America, a path to permanent residency. This would be the optimal outcome. Lawmakers and the Trump administration should take it seriously.
So, all is not lost — yet.
We agree with lawmakers and advocates that terminating the TPS status for Haitians would be harsh and inhumane.
Just as inhumane, however, has been the administration’s inconsistent approach to immigrants both undocumented and in this country legally. DACA recipients are still in limbo; undocumented immigrants — no matter how law-abiding, how much they are contributing to their communities — are being deported, forced to leave families behind. Administration policy has been haphazardly executed, at great human cost.
Congress bears major blame. For the past decade, it has run from its responsibility to develop smart and comprehensive immigration reform. Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo has commendably stepped forward, introducing the Extending Status Protection for Eligible Refugees with Established Residency Act. It would create a route to permanent legal status for some Haitians, Nicaraguans, Salvadorans, and Hondurans who arrived in the United States before Jan. 13, 2011.
It’s an opportunity for lawmakers to make clear that they value immigrants who have absorbed and lived up to American principles.
Haiti clearly makes the case. In addition to cholera, and political and economic stagnation, even the U.S. government has failed to deliver on its post-quake promises. A public hospital that it is financing along with the French government still has not been built. The $300 million Caracol Industrial Park that it built, hasn’t delivered the 60,000 jobs promised. Even houses built by the U.S. Agency for International Development after the disaster suffered from shoddy workmanship.
If the richest country in the hemisphere can’t deliver in Haiti, how can it expect the poorest to do so seven years after the worst natural disaster in modern history left more than 300,000 dead, 1.5 million displaced and billions of dollars in damage?