Paltry Six Month Renewal of Haitians’ TPS Suggests It May Be the Last

by Steve Forester (Haiti Liberte)

On May 22, 2017, the U.S. Department of
Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it would extend the Temporary Protected
Status (TPS) designation for some 50,000 Haitians living in the United States
for only six months rather than the usual, appropriate 18 months.

wording of DHS Secretary John F. Kelly’s announcement sent very mixed signals
and omitted extremely significant facts. It stressed that this is likely the
last extension and that TPS holders should “attain travel documents” for return
to Haiti. Very inaccurately, it also asserted that conditions in Haiti have
greatly improved.

announcement ignores the vast destruction last October of Hurricane Matthew –
the worst to hit Haiti in 52 years – and the unchecked cholera epidemic which
has killed and sickened at least 9,500 and 800,000 respectively. Hurricane
Matthew hit Haiti’s bread basket, exacerbating the current food insecurity
crisis, and spiked cholera cases too.

DHS statement also misleadingly states: “96% of people displaced by the
earthquake and living in internally displaced person camps have left those
camps.  Even more encouraging is that
over 98% of these camps have closed.”

is misleading because many camps were forcibly closed due to regular,
unchallenged, large-scale evictions by landowners, not because other housing
had been found nor because residents had any other place to go. This has been a
huge problem in Haiti.  Even more
significantly, several of the larger camps were reclassified by the Haitian
government as “permanent housing,” simply because the residents had
attached so much salvaged building material to their makeshift shanties. An
estimated 50,000 still live in tents seven years after the earthquake.

fact, perhaps never has there been a clearer case for TPS extension than
Haiti’s case now, due to the overwhelming triple calamities of earthquake,
Matthew, and cholera. Haiti can’t safely assimilate 50,000 deportees nor,
crucially, replace their remittances to hundreds of thousands of families back

all these reasons, Haiti’s government was joined by the New York Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Miami Herald, New York
Daily News, Sun Sentinel, Palm Beach Post
, and Orlando Sentinel editorial boards, the Republican governors of
Florida and Massachusetts, 100 bipartisan members of the U.S. Senate and House,
14 big city mayors, 550 U.S. doctors, 416 faith leaders, 330 organizations and
leaders, and a host of others in urging an 18-month TPS extension.

was unprecedented because the justifying facts on the ground are that
conditions warranting TPS persist in Haiti, as evidenced by an 8-page
single-spaced December assessment by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration
Services (USCIS) and then-Secretary of State Kerry’s recommendation that it be
extended.  But last month, USCIS under
President Trump reversed itself, urging termination, and recently leaked DHS
emails revealed efforts to demonize Haitians as criminals and welfare cheats as
a means of justifying termination. These maneuvers were reprehensible and
inherently racist. Such considerations are also irrelevant: since TPS is a
humanitarian program, TPS recipients are ineligible for welfare, and criminals
are ineligible for TPS!

there is this ominous conclusion to Kelly’s statement: “This six-month
extension should allow Haitian TPS recipients living in the United States time
to attain travel documents and make other necessary arrangements for their
ultimate departure from the United States, and should also provide the Haitian
government with the time it needs to prepare for the future repatriation of all
current TPS recipients… I believe there are indications that Haiti – if its
recovery from the 2010 earthquake continues at pace – may not warrant further
TPS extension past January 2018.” This statement strongly suggests that this
partial TPS renewal for Haitians will be the last.

this reprieve is temporary and short. Although the Trump administration’s DHS
may have been angling for a cut-off, the facts and overwhelming support for
Haitians’ TPS renewal were too strong to ignore. We must make sure that they
remain so in the months ahead.

Forester is the Immigration Policy Coordinator for the Institute for Justice
& Democracy in Haiti (IJDH).