Trump Is Letting One Immigrant Group Stay In America (For Now)

May 22nd 2017

Kyle Fitzpatrick

Thus far, the still-nascent Trump administration has already offered a startling rebuke of traditional American policies when it comes to immigration. Across the country, immigrants have been subject to deportations and arrests and the administration has signed two legally dubious executive orders on immigration, one which was overturned and the other which is being held up in appeals courts

Thus far, Haitian refugees have not been the target of Trump's extreme immigration policies. But the political climate has made the status of Haitians who came to America to escape the effects of the devastating 2010 earthquake a tenuous one.

In 2010, Haitians immigrants were granted asylum under the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program. TPS is granted to persons from countries that face cataclysmic conditions such as civil war or a natural disaster. Under TPS, they cannot be removed from the country, can seek employment, and are able to travel outside of the country. Currently, approximately an estimated 59,000 Haitians living in the U.S. that are protected by TPS.

Since it's inception in 1990, the program has given immigrants from protected countries between six and eighteen month allowances, with the ability to extend their stays indefinitely, should conditions in their country of origin remain unstable and unsafe. 

The deadline to offer an extension to Haitian immigrants under the TPS program was slated for May 23, 2017.

Given the current administration’s immigration policies, many were concerned that President Trump would end TPS. 

As this deadline approached, immigration activists had been very vocal in expressing concern that Trump would send displaced Haitians back to an unstable country. While the country has worked to recover in the seven years since the earthquake, it has been beset by financial instability and a cholera outbreak that exacerbated its already weakened infrastructure.

“Haiti might be ready to open for business but not ready to accept its citizens that left,” Herold Dasque, former director at Haitian-Americans United for Progress, shared with Voice Of America earlier this month.

Surprisingly, the Trump administration extended the protections of Haitians in America.

The Trump administration has allowed displaced Haitians living in the United States to remain, extending their residency for an additional six months, starting in July. 

However, the Department Of Homeland Security has noted that Haitian immigrants should use the extension to make preparations to leave, as they may not receive another extension. 

Displaced Haitians are in unique position because of TPS—but they’re not alone.

Currently eight other countries are granted security by TPS: El Salvador, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

While President Trump’s travel ban did not clarify how this will affect Syrian refugees protected by TPS, experts believe those seeking asylum will face stricter screenings. But, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website, Syrians hypothetically have been granted — and can still apply for — TPS protection through March of 2018. 

While Haitian immigrants were granted a stay, other immigrant groups were dealt a different hand this week. TPS status for people from Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone ended yesterday after months of notice, for those who had fled to the U.S., in the wake of an Ebola virus outbreak and civil war. In this case, those predicting that the Trump administration would not protect refugees were correct. 

TPS is important and represents America’s compassion for the vulnerable despite the current administration’s acts.

While Haitian immigrants fearing the end of their TPS status can breathe a sigh of relief for the time being, many are still concerned that the six month extension is not only woefully short but promises to be the last extension offered. 

"As Haiti rebuilds, we must keep giving protections to those who have become active members of our community," Senator Ed Markey (D-MA), tweeted on the subject, pushing for further extension.