Most Recent Registration Period: January 18, 2018 – March 19, 2018
Termination Date: July 22, 2019
Temporary Protected Status for Haiti, one of our nation’s newer TPS programs, has been extended once more. But the newest extension is the last one for Haiti immigrants. The program is slated for termination on July 22, 2019.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, conditions in Haiti have improved enough for Haitians to return home. This contention is disputed by many immigration activists and Haitian community leaders.
The push to eliminate TPS for Haiti is viewed by many immigrant experts as a politically-driven decision by the Trump Adminstration as part of its immigration restrictive policies, rather than one based on humanitarian concerns.
Haiti TPS History
After a devastating January 2010 earthquake, the U.S. government designated Haiti for Temporary Protective Status for a period of 18 months.
According to early government estimates, approximately 230,000 Haitians lost their lives as a result of the earthquake. Damages were calculated at $14 billion.
Shortly after the earthquake, Haiti suffered an outbreak of cholera. The World Health Organization reported, as of March 2011, the outbreak had caused 2,500 deaths and infected close to 250,000 individuals.
Despite this outbreak, as discussed in Haitian TPS Registration To End, Deportations To Begin, the U.S. government decided to resume, rather than defer, deportation of certain Haitian nationals in early 2011. This policy was misplaced. For example, in one reported incident, a Haitian national who had been a lawful permanent resident for 17 years died of cholera-related symptoms shortly after he was deported.
The government’s position pointed to a deeper problem: a negative viewpoint towards helping Haitian nationals.
Various extensions followed.
The Basis Of Previous Haiti TPS Extensions
At the time of the first extension, then-DHS Secretary Napolitano noted, “In the extended aftermath of the devastating earthquakes in Haiti, the United States has remained fully committed to upholding our responsibility to assist individuals affected by this tragedy by using tools available under the law.”
“Providing a temporary refuge for Haitian nationals who are currently in the United States and whose personal safety would be endangered by returning to Haiti is part of this administration’s continuing efforts to support Haiti’s recovery.”
Her statement illustrated the different attitudes toward helping Haitians in the upper ranks of the U.S. government.
Subsequently, the Haitian TPS program was extended until January 22, 2013. then to July 22, 2014, then to January 22, 2016, followed by the extension to July 22, 2017.
The Physical Devastation To Haiti
In March 2014, DHS provided updated and expanded information on the Haiti situation.
The Department of Homeland Security leader at that time, Jeh Johnson, explained:
“While the Government of Haiti has made considerable progress in improving security and quality of life of its citizens following the January 2010 earthquake, Haiti continues to lack the adequate infrastructure, employment and educational opportunities, and basic services to absorb the approximately 58,000 Haitian nationals living in the United States under TPS.”
In particular, the DHS Federal Register noted:
- Haitian government officials now estimate the death toll caused by the earthquake between 230,000 to 316,000.
- 964 schools were damaged by the earthquake, affecting more than 200,000 children. Since then, many schools have been reconstructed, but a vast shortage still exists.
- Unemployment in Haiti was at 40% percent as of July 2013. More than 78% are living on less than $2 per day, and over 50% live on less than $1 per day..
- In rural areas, 88 percent of individuals now live below the poverty line and basic services are practically nonexistent.
- There have been 693,875 cumulative cholera cases and 8,482 deaths as of November 30, 2013. Meanwhile, resources for the cholera response, which includes, funding and staff, has been in steady decline since 2012.
- Following the January 2010 earthquake, approximately 1.5 million Haitians were left homeless and placed in temporary camps. As of September 2013, 172,000 individuals still live in temporary camps.
- The displacement led to increased risks for Haiti’s populace. Many displaced to camps and other marginalized areas have been subjected to a high risk of crime, gender-based violence, trafficking, sexual exploitation, and forced child labor.
- Kidnappings, death threats, murders, armed robberies, home break-ins, and carjacking continue to occur in large urban centers of Haiti. Over 16,000 households have been victims of forced evictions, several by police officers. A few months ago, the United Nations Security Council extended the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti until mid-October 2014.
A Dismal Future: The Pending Deportation Of Haitian Nationals
The recent announcement that Haiti TPS was being terminated did not surprise Haitian community leaders.
Haiti TPS has been a disfavored programs since its inception.
Haitian activists do not accept the government’s decision at face value. They know that conditions in their homeland, noted just a few years ago by the U.S., have not improved enough for Haitian immigrants to return safely yet.
In their view, the American government is focused on an agenda to close its doors to immigrants.
A Flickering Light Of Hope: Roads To Permanent Residence
Temporary Protected Status is a special humanitarian program created in 1990.
The policy behind TPS has always been to provide immigrants with a temporary safe harbor while they are not capable of returning safely to their home country due to armed conflict like war, an environmental disaster, war, and other extraordinary severe conditions.
As a green card lawyer, I’ve seen how TPS helps immigrants rebuild their lives after their homes have been destroyed or families have perished as part of a national disaster.
In the view of the current administration, helping your neighbor, when your neighbor needs your support, is not a worthy political ideal – not even for the leader of free nations across the globe.
But there is still hope for many Haitians living in the U.S.
Rather than just give up, Haitians, who have been granted TPS status at any time, may have options to seek permanent residency under different programs as discussed in How TPS Beneficiaries Can Win Permanent Residence (Even If TPS Expires).
For more on the government’s position regarding TPS for Haiti, here is the USCIS link: USCIS Fact Sheet on Haiti.
By Carlos Batara, Immigration Law, Policy, And Politics