On Monday evening, the Trump administration took another swing at immigrant communities. This time, Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke announced that come June 2019 the administration will end temporary protections that allow some 50,000 Haitians to live and work legally in the United States. By doing so, the Trump administration is effectively creating a new class of undocumented immigrants and demanding the separation of tens of thousands of families. And Duke gave every indication that she is not done.
In her Monday announcement, Duke also left open the door to rescind similar protections, known as Temporary Protected Status, for 60,000 people from Honduras. In the coming months, she’ll be reviewing the status of some 200,000 similarly protected Salvadorans. TPS provides short-term work authorization and protection from deportation to those who come from countries that are too destabilized by natural disaster or conflict to return home. Monday’s announcement means that those with TPS from Haiti have 18 months to pack up their lives here and leave the country.
Protecting TPS is a matter “of public health as well as basic human decency,” said Patrice Lawrence, national policy and advocacy coordinator with the UndocuBlack Network, a national organization advocating for those without status from across the African diaspora. “What we have learned, though, is this administration does not play fair.”
The United States first conferred TPS on those from Haiti after the massive 2010 earthquake that killed at least 200,000 people and displaced more than a million more. The Obama administration extended TPS for Haitians multiple times, but members of the Trump administration, including former DHS secretary and current Chief of Staff John Kelly, have lobbied for the dismantling of the program’s current protections for those from other countries. In May of this year the Associated Press revealed that the agency was fishing around for reports of TPS holders committing crimes.
“We should also find any reports of criminal activity by any individual with TPS,” United States Citizenship and Immigration Services policy chief Kathy Nuebel Kovarik said in e-mails sent earlier this year, AP reported. “Even though it’s only a snapshot and not representative of the entire situation, we need more than ‘Haiti is really poor’ stories.”
Not only is Haiti the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, conditions in the country remain dire. A cholera epidemic sparked by the aftermath of the earthquake killed more than 8,000 people and has sickened hundreds of thousands more. Cholera and diphtheria remain threats in the country, as it has been rocked by even more disasters in recent years. Hurricanes and torrential rains and floods have exacerbated already serious concerns about limited medical care, security problems, and acute housing and food shortages.