U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) is recommending that temporary protection for 50,000 Haitians who came to the U.S. after the 2010 earthquake be dropped, clearing the way for possible deportation.
Temporary Protected Status, called TPS, was afforded to Haitians who fled to the U.S. following the earthquake, so that they could reside and work legally here while their country recovered. The status was only for 18 months, but has been extended several times. It has now been more than seven years since the earthquake.
“Our view is that the ‘T’ in TPS stands for ‘temporary,’ and at some point we need to take this seriously, or literally.”
The current TPS is due to expire on July 22.
USA Today reported Friday that the acting director of the U.S. Center for Immigration Services, James McCament, sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security last week recommending that the TPS for Haitians be extended only until January of 2018, and then stopped, citing improved conditions in Haiti.
If approved by the Department of Homeland Security, the Haitians, by the time they are repatriated, will have spent eight years in the U.S.
“Our view is that the ‘T’ in TPS stands for ‘temporary,’ and at some point we need to take this seriously, or literally,” says Ira Mehlman, the spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform.
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The TPS, he says, routinely gets extended for several years for some countries. In some cases, it’s decades. It shouldn’t be that long, he says, calling the CIS recommendation that the TPS for Haiti from the 2010 earthquake be allowed to expire “an important step and signal that these programs are not going to be abused.”
The earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12, 2010, killed tens of thousands of people, at least. The Haitian government estimated that up to 300,000 were killed but is widely considered to have been inflating figures to procure more aid.
There was an overwhelming charitable response from the U.S., with millions of dollars in aid raised in the weeks that followed. But much of it was misdirected and pilfered, investigations later found, and little actually went into rebuilding Haiti.
Haiti, a former French colony, was once known as the “Jewel of the Caribbean.” It is now the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
There are an estimated 606,000 Haitian immigrants living in the U.S., according to the U.S. Census Bureau, most of them in South Florida, the New York area, and Boston. About half are naturalized citizens.
There are almost 16,000 Haitian students in public schools in Palm Beach County, Florida, which has one of the largest concentrations of Haitians in the U.S. Eighty-eight percent of them get free or reduced school lunches, and 46 percent of them are classified as “English Language Learners” and enrolled in special language programs, according to the School District of Palm Beach County.
In March, Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), along with eight House members from the Sunshine State, sent a letter to DHS Secretary John Kelly, asking him to extend protection status for Haitians living in the U.S., citing the cholera outbreak in Haiti and the extensive damage from Hurricane Matthew in 2016, in addition to the 2010 earthquake, as reasons.
“The United States remains steadfast in assisting Haiti with its democratic development and providing necessary assistance for reconstruction, development, and humanitarian relief,” they wrote.