Washington, DC—On November 20, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced an end to Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitians, many of whom sought refuge in the United States after devastating natural disasters in Haiti. With this decision, over 50,000 Haitians and their children, some 30,000 of whom were born in the United States, will lose protected status and face deportation effective July 2019. Just prior to the official announcement, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Bill Nelson (D-FL), along with civil society representatives of all faiths and creeds, urged DHS to reconsider the decision.
“Revoking TPS for Haitians is a sad reflection of the ways in which U.S. immigration policy has historically discriminated against people of color and people of African descent,” said Gimena Sánchez, Senior Associate at the Washington Office on Latin America, a leading research and advocacy organization advancing human rights in the hemisphere. “There is no reason to criminalize, stigmatize, or deport the Haitians who benefitted from TPS. Doing so will break up tens of thousands of families, and will kill the hopes and dreams of so many who have made the United States their home. Children educated in the United States, who otherwise had bright futures ahead of them, will be devastated as they are forced to return to a country they have never known.”
Besides sending the wrong message about U.S. values, this decision will only encourage other nations in the Western Hemisphere to close their doors to Haitians and other migrants in need. Trump’s stigmatization of migrants has arguably already had a ripple effect across the region: the Bahamas recently decided to force all undocumented persons, many of whom are Haitian, to leave the country by the end of the year; while Argentina is implementing an increasingly restrictive immigration policy. The U.S. move to end TPS may have particularly serious repercussions in the Dominican Republic, a country that cruelly stripped Dominicans of Haitian descent of their citizenship in 2013, regardless of how many generations had lived there, leaving hundreds of thousands of people stateless. With the situation far from resolved, the Dominican Republic’s anti-immigrant hardliners will likely be further emboldened by the Trump administration’s xenophobic policies, as will many other like-minded ideologues in the Western Hemisphere.
Haiti’s new leadership has already expressed concern about its capacity to absorb those expelled from the United States. The country is simply not prepared to accept and integrate large waves of U.S. deportees, given its ongoing humanitarian crisis. Nearly 800,000 Haitians have contracted cholera since 2010, and access to clean water remains limited due to the widespread damage caused by Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Additionally, local security personnel will face significant challenges in maintaining order across the country, given the recent withdrawal of United Nations peacekeepers.
“With most nations, even Canada, reluctant to welcome those unwilling to return to Haiti’s grinding poverty, where will all of these people go? Expelling them from the United States will have massive humanitarian and logistical costs. It will likely generate an underclass of people who choose to stay in the United States living in fear, vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. Haitians who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents may also face increased mistreatment, division, and suspicion. Ending TPS for Haitians is an unjustified act of cruelty against a group of people that the U.S. government has now deemed undesirable,” said Sánchez.