An op-ed piece by Yitzchok Ullman (interim supervisor of the Town of Ramapo) and Michael Specht (incoming supervisor of Ramapo) in the Luxora Leader. [This was apparently written before Thanksgiving but was published today.]
As Thanksgiving approaches, President Trump sent a most ungracious message to nearly 60,000 Haitian refugees who came to the United States in the wake of a 2010 earthquake that devastated the island they called home. In the seven years since the earthquake killed 316,000 people and displacing 1.5 million more, Haiti has suffered a massive cholera outbreak and a 2016 hurricane that brought more destruction to already devastated communities.
As a result, the people who fled Haiti and were provided special status in the United States lack a safe place to return. Despite all of this, President Trump is removing the special status that allows them to stay here legally.
If he wants to see how heartless and cruel this is, he can drive 30 miles north of his beloved Trump Tower and see firsthand the fear and anger he has caused. Because Ramapo has had a large Haitian community for many years, many of those refugees settled here in Spring Valley. They have become woven into the fabric our community, making incredible contributions to our entire community.
This should be no surprise to the people who watched how our community responded to the crisis. While much attention has been paid to the things that divide Ramapo, our spirit of community and our shared commitment to build a safe home for all our people has long been part of what makes Ramapo a great place to live and raise a family.
Do we have our differences? Of course. But our diversity, our openness and our respect for people of all backgrounds is what drew many of us to Ramapo in the first place. So, when disaster struck Haiti in 2010, and many in our community were worried about family and loved ones on the island, we came together.
Members of the local Haitian community joined forces with the members of the Hassidic community — among others — to send food, money and volunteers to Haiti to assist in the recovery efforts. They formed the Ramapo Haitian Task Force to coordinate and organize relief missions. And, of course, when the refugees came we welcomed them with open arms.
Now, as the current and incoming supervisors of the Town of Ramapo, our hearts are broken by the needless cruelty displayed by the president. There is no valid reason to end humanitarian immigrant protections for displaced Haitians. The only justification is the president’s commitment to pander to a radical political base that propelled him to office based on his divisive, anti-immigrant campaign.
But real lives are at stake here, and many of these people are our neighbors. They have built their lives here. They pay their taxes here and send their children to our schools. According to the no-partisan Center for Migration Studies, nationwide 6,200 Haitians who resettled here as part of this program hold mortgages, while 27,000 of them have U.S.-born, U.S. citizen children.
Rather than expel our neighbors, we should fight for their rights and their dignity. The crisis is not over, and President Trump’s heartless decision to force people to return is unfair to them and hurtful to our entire community. As a New Yorker, President Trump should understand the value of diversity. As our president, he should have the compassion to stand up for those who have suffered enough. Anything less is a betrayal of his New York values, and his responsibility to our nation.