On January 12, 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti, killing 300,000 people. Because of the devastation, 50,000 Haitians residing in the United States were provided Temporary Protective Status (TPS)—a designation that comes with certain privileges granted by the United States Customs and Immigrations Service (USCIS).
The new administration is considering allowing Haiti’s TPS to expire, supposedly to cut costs. However, the amount of potential savings is minimal compared to the economic impact of disrupting the lives of thousands of people and their place in the United States workforce.
Haiti’s TPS was set to expire on July 22, 2017, until the Trump administration approved it—partially. The new order effective on July 22 is only for six months, whereas the guidelines allow for 18 months; the filing fees will remain the same, however, thus paying for 18 months but only receiving 6 months of borrowed time.
Thousands of Haitians and Haitian-Americans are anxious to see how the Trump administration will proceed in January of 2018. For those trying to read the tea leaves, an April memo sent by the Director of USCIS, James McCament, looms large. In the memo, McCament recommended that the TPS for Haitians not be extended because “conditions have significantly improved since the earthquake.”
That is nonsense in light of the myriad issues that still exist because of the earthquake:
- Gender-based violence in refugee camps
- Cholera outbreak affecting 800,000 people
- Potential external shocks
- Unrepaired infrastructure damage
To further complicate the issue, Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti hard in 2016, causing $1 billion in damages and $360 million in crop losses. In an interview, the newly elected president of Haiti said: “We believe that this is not the time to welcome our brothers and sisters who are there (in the USA) because it will aggravate our already precarious situation.”
This hardly sounds like an improvement. James McCament needs to ask himself if he would send his family back to a country that has no interest in helping its displaced citizens. President Trump needs to be accurately informed about the situation in Haiti and must keep his promise to the Haitian community. Temporary Protective Status for Haiti has been renewed three times since 2010. Until conditions actually improve in Haiti, it would be disgraceful to send people back to face cholera, potential food shortages, a lack of suitable housing, and an uncertain future.