BY STATE SENATOR JAMES SANDERS, JR.
Whether it’s extreme vetting, building a wall on the southern border with Mexico, or the so-called Muslim Ban, it would not be a far stretch to call President Trump anti-immigrant. Now he wants to deport thousands of Haitians who left their country after the 2010 earthquake, one that did extensive damage to the already impoverished country.
Temporary Protected Status (TPS) shields about 60,000 Haitian refugees from deportation. It is a program that allows people to stay in this country if they have fled their homeland due to war, genocide or natural disaster. It also authorizes them to work. Trump has scheduled the program to end for Haitians in July 2019, just enough time, the U.S. government believes, to either make plans to find a way to stay here legally or to tie up any loose ends here and return home.
Some 30,000 children were born to these Haitian refugees while they were staying in the United States, making them American citizens, and putting themselves and their parents in a precarious situation. Following the expiration of TPS, the children would have to go back to Haiti or be left with a relative or guardian in the United States.
Some would argue that people here temporarily knew the implications having children could cause later down the line, or that some were trying to skirt the system by having children born as American citizens, so they could stay here legally. I think in some cases that may be true but in many cases children are simply an unplanned blessing.
There are some who have called Trump’s decision to get rid of TPS for Haitians “ethnic cleansing.” I would not go that far. I will say that he seems to get a special kind of enjoyment or glee in actions that negatively affect people of color.
I believe we need to have an expedited process so that the Haitian people can stay and be integrated into America’s population. We have to realize that Haiti was already in a bad state of affairs when the earthquake hit and is probably the worst target for such a disaster in terms of causing devastation.
The question that is being debated among our government officials and immigration advocates is whether Haiti is ready to receive her people back. What is ready? Let’s define it. Is there a fair standard of what ready is? If there is, I doubt Haiti would be as ready as other places, even though a location would have to be judged within its own context. Can Haiti incorporate 60,000 people back into its population without leveling its economy? Probably not. Of course, there are those who would argue that Haiti was poor before the earthquake and it will be poor after the earthquake, but let’s not forget that this country was basically forced to pay reparations for its freedom– 150 million gold francs – which was 10 times the country’s annual revenue. It was later reduced to 90 million francs, but that made little difference.
On a local level, there may be questions as to why the United States should shoulder what some might consider a burden resulting from caring for these refugees, but remember that America was built by immigrants. We will need a new generation of workers to take the place of those who are no longer here. That is yet another reason why I believe creating a path to citizenship for these Haitian people and allowing those who have children who were born here, to stay here, is the best solution at this time.