There is much to celebrate in Harlem this month.
Monday, Nov. 21, the Department of Homeland Security announced its inhumane decision to end Temporary Protected Status for approximately 60,000 Haitian immigrants, putting people who have lived legally in the United States for years—and some, decades—at risk of being detained and deported. On the eve of Thanksgiving, the Trump administration has decided to contravene basic humanitarianism in favor of an immigration agenda that is drenched in racism, nativism and xenophobia.
More than 300,000 immigrants from 10 countries have been granted Temporary Protected Status, also known as TPS. It gives people who come from countries where environmental disaster, armed conflict or other extraordinary circumstances might place them in danger permission to legally live and work in the U.S. Several countries still meet these criteria, including Sudan and Nicaragua, but the administration decided to ignore the evidence and cancel their TPS.
Haitian immigrants were first granted TPS in 2010 after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake devastated the island, killing 230,000 residents and displacing approximately 3 million. Conditions on the island worsened with a cholera outbreak caused by United Nations officers, and, more recently, this crisis was further exacerbated by Hurricanes Matthew, Irma and Maria, all Category 5 storms. Collectively, these storms caused significant loss of life, prolonged power outages, food and water insecurity, loss of crops and millions of dollars in property damage. Although the Haitian government continues to rebuild despite these many setbacks, it is still struggling to find adequate shelter, food and jobs for its current residents.
DHS refuses to acknowledge the impact of these ongoing disasters and public health crises on the recovery process in Haiti. The administration also turned a blind eye to all the economic contributions of people who provide for their families on the island—and here in the U.S.—because TPS enabled them to get work permits. One example is Holden Pierre, a 24-year-old from Boston, who came to live in the U.S. at 7 years old and provides financial and emotional support for his younger siblings.
And what about the young people who have no memory of living anywhere else but the U.S.? That group includes students such as Lys Isma, from Miami, who was brought to the U.S. at 9 months old and has lived here all of her life. Now she faces the prospect of being deported to a place she does not know.
So, what can you do to change this situation?
Call and visit your representatives in Congress to urge them to enact legislation that provides a more permanent, humane, holistic solution for Haitians and other TPS holders. You can also join or follow the Black Immigration Network (www.BlackImmigration.Net)—a national alliance of more than 50 Black-led organizations and community groups that promotes just migration policies rooted in racial equity and serves to strengthen solidarity among all people of African descent.
Opal Tometi is the executive director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration and co-founder of the Black Lives Matter Global Network.