Could the Trump administration, fresh from its disgraceful decision to revoke the program that kept young immigrants in the country, get any crueler in its immigration policies? The country is about to find out.
The administration is getting ready to issue a determination on the fate of Haitians and some Central Americans who hold temporary protected status, which expires in January. TPS, as the federal relief program is known, is granted to citizens of certain countries battling deteriorating conditions caused by natural disasters, health epidemics, or armed conflicts. The program confers work permits and protection from deportation to its beneficiaries, a total of 435,000 foreign nationals from 10 countries, including 260,000 from El Salvador, 59,000 from Haiti, and 86,000 from Honduras.
The sad reality is that the conditions that led to granting protected status to residents of the those nations have not improved. This is particularly true for Haiti, whose protected status was set to expire this summer, until it was extended to January.
The tiny Caribbean country got the designation after the devastating 2010 earthquake. But Haiti has not recovered. A wave of cholera hit after the earthquake, followed by Hurricane Matthew a year ago. More than a million Haitians are still in need of critical humanitarian aid because of the storm. On top of that, Hurricane Irma also wreaked havoc in early September.
Still, the Trump administration told Haitians earlier this year to get their documents and affairs in order so as to prepare to leave in January, a pronouncement that caused tremendous fear.
The Massachusetts congressional delegation supports maintaining protective status for Haitians, lobbying for it earlier this year with John Kelly, then Homeland Security secretary and now President Trump’s chief of staff. Governor Charlie Baker, who also supports keeping the program for Haiti, should engage more aggressively with Kelly, who is from Massachusetts, to push for another extension for Haitians.
The case for the Haitians was made in compelling fashion last fall: “It’s simply hard to believe that something like that could have happened, the turmoil and pain and suffering that so many people are going through. The 2010 Haitian earthquake unleashed a horrible and catastrophic devastation: over 300,000 dead, unbelievable, 300,000, millions displaced or injured, homes, businesses, schools reduced to rubble . . . the truth is Haiti is still suffering very badly, maybe as badly, after all of the tears and all of the money and all of the work.”
In case you haven’t guessed, those are the words of Donald Trump, when he visited Little Haiti in Miami as a candidate to court the Haitian vote. Indeed, as he said, Haiti is still suffering. The question remains whether Trump will use many thousands of Haitians as political props rather than show the kind of compassion that allowed them to find refuge here in the first place.