Shortly after the devastating earthquake in Haiti, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security designated Haiti under the TPS for a period of 18 months. The original registration period ran from January 21, 2010 to July 20, 2010.
In July, the Haitian TPS registration period was extended for another six months. This was based on the government’s realization many Haitians had not yet applied.
The failure to register, in many cases, was due to difficulty in trying to obtain official identification documents from their homeland as a result of the widespread destruction caused by the earthquake.
Immigration Opponents Criticize Haiti TPS Registration Extension
As could be expected, immigration opponents blasted the extended registration date. They asserted the new deadline would allow Haitians to sneak into the U.S. and claim TPS benefits.
Since only Haitians who were in the U.S. on January 12, 2010 are eligible to qualify for TPS, they claimed the extension would open the door to fraud.
In spite of the distance and chaos in Haiti, opponents argued Haitians would have time and resources to enter the United States, pretending they were here all along.
The government dismissed these concerns as unfounded.
Rightly so. Fabricating evidence is not easy. The government has a series of checks and balances which must be passed before benefits are granted.
Moreover, temporary protected status is a special immigration program, and the humanitarian needs in Haiti clearly meet TPS requirements.
ICE Announces Haitian Deportations
Recently, the government has done a partial about-face. Immigration officials have started to resume deportations of Haitians.
When immigrants are granted temporary protected status, they are also given “deferred action” in cases where they are facing deportation or removal from the United States.
Thus, earlier this year, many Haitian nationals were released from detention centers across the country, and given temporary permission to live and work.
But a few days ago, immigration officials disclosed they would resume deportations of Haitians by mid-January. Although the announcement said the focus was on those with criminal convictions, fear spread quickly throughout Haitian communities.
A spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Barbara Gonzalez, said the deportations would proceed in a manner “consistent with our domestic immigration enforcement policies.”
This statement, however, causes more, not less concerns for the Haitian community.
Being a deportation defense attorney, I realize the government’s vague pronouncement leaves open the larger question, “What are the country’s immigration enforcement policies?”
In my view these worries are compounded, as discussed in Deportation Legacy: Obama Sets All Time Record For Second Straight Year, by the Obama administration’s penchant for removal quotas.
With over 50% of recent deportations being immigrants with no criminal record, it is quite natural many Haitians feel the government’s roundup of Haitians could widen.
Political Hypocrisy And Haitian Deportations
The Obama administration’s decision to deport Haitians has drawn fire from Haitian leaders.
Haiti remains racked by a cholera epidemic, political turmoil, and a slow reconstruction.
Deportations would be death sentences. Upon arrival, the deportees would be placed in Haitian detention centers, where the cholera is spreading faster than in the general population.
It seems the government has forgotten why TPS for Haiti is important in the first place.
“Everything’s upside down in Haiti,” notes Mathieu Eugene, a Haitian-American member of the New York City Council. “I don’t think Haiti can handle more challenges than what it has right now.”
Neither do I.
The government’s deportation policy is puzzling. Why now? Why the rush?
As a Hemet immigration lawyer, I’m almost 100% sure Haiti’s TPS status will be extended this summer for at least 18 more months.
The only rationale for the government’s new move, it seems, is related to the administration’s 2011 deportations quota.
Given that 2011 will be the prelude to the 2012 Presidential campaign, this appears another effort to appease anti-immigration voters.
And, quite frankly, that’s a poor excuse for resuming Haitian deportations.