Deporting 50,000 Haitians would hurt both Haiti and the United States

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The Orlando Sentinel Editorial Board explores why the idea of deporting 50,000 Haitians does not present a positive prospect. Read full article and watch a related video at the Orlando Sentinel.

As most people in America look forward to Thanksgiving next week, some 50,000 Haitians in this country — including more than 3,000 in Central Florida — are worrying about whether they’ll soon be sent back to a country still reeling from a series of disasters.

A textbook case for TPS

The Obama administration first granted Temporary Protected Status to Haitians, allowing them to live and work legally in the United States, after a massive earthquake hit their country in 2010. It killed 300,000 people, destroyed much of Haiti’s infrastructure, and left more than 1.5 million homeless. It was a textbook case for TPS, which gives the secretary of homeland security authority to protect foreign nationals in the United States from deportation, and allow them to obtain work permits, when circumstances in their home country — wars, natural disasters, epidemics or other “extraordinary and temporary conditions” — would cast doubt on their safe return, or prevent their country from successfully reintegrating them. TPS is not a pathway to permanent legal status or citizenship.

TPS was limited to Haitians in this country who arrived by January 2011. These are not undocumented immigrants. They are living — and more than 80 percent are working — in the United States with the federal government’s explicit permission. They are law-abiding; any Haitian convicted of a felony or even a pair of misdemeanors is ineligible for TPS. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, they are an important part of the work force repairing hurricane damage in Texas and Florida.

TPS has been extended several times for this group since 2011 as Haiti, not fully recovered from the earthquake, has suffered more calamities. A cholera epidemic imported by United Nations troops has killed more than 9,000 people and infected more than 800,000, overwhelming the country’s limited medical resources. Last year the worst storm to hit Haiti in 52 years, Hurricane Matthew, killed more than 1,000 people, displaced 175,000 and caused more than $1 billion in damage. And after the Trump administration decided earlier this year to grant another six-month TPS extension for Haitians, Hurricane Irma roared past the island and delivered yet another blow to its infrastructure as well as its farms and food supply.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has argued that conditions have improved in Haiti enough to end TPS for Haitians, but his own department in September warned its employees not to travel to some parts of the country because of security problems persisting in the wake of Hurricane Matthew.

TPS for Haitians is set to expire on Jan. 22, but the deadline for extending it is next week. The legal authority to do so rests with the acting homeland security secretary, Elaine Duke. Last week 41 U.S. mayors, including Orlando’s Buddy Dyer and five others from Florida, wrote to Duke to plead for an 18-month extension. They argued convincingly that their communities and economies would be harmed without an extension. “Haitian TPS recipients are integral members of our neighborhoods, workplaces, religious communities, schools, and health care institutions,” the mayors wrote. [. . .]

Read full article and watch video at http://www.orlandosentinel.com/opinion/os-ed-trump-should-extend-tps-for-haitians-20171115-story.html

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