Mark July 22, 2017, on your calendar. It is the day the 18-month extension of Temporary Protected Status granted to qualified Haitian immigrants under the Obama administration will end.
And so the fate of some 60,000 Haitians will be in limbo, much like the DREAMERS under the Obama Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
So will Donald Trump extend TPS based on the many Haitians who switched sides and supported him during his campaign? Or will he flip-flop and throw them under the bus, much like he has been doing to his base in backtracking on many of his campaign promises during the past three months?
Neither Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly nor the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services have so far made any disclosure on what will happen with this program, which some ultra-conservative supporters, including the Judicial Watch, have called “temporary amnesty for illegal aliens.”
The TPS for Haitian immigrants was originally granted after the devastating earthquake in the Caribbean nation in 2010. Then Homeland Security secretary under the Obama administration, Janet Napolitano, granted an initial 18-month immigration relief to Haitian nationals who were in the United States as of Jan. 12, 2010.
The program provided temporary refuge for Haitian nationals who were in the United States and whose personal safety would have been endangered by returning to Haiti. The program allowed for qualified immigrants who applied using Form I-821, Application for Temporary Protected Status, and Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization; paid the necessary fees; and completed a background security screening, to obtain a one-year Employment Authorization Document that allowed them to work and also travel out of the country.
Since 2010, the program has been extended continually, allowing for those TPS Haiti beneficiaries who re-register during a 60-day period to receive a new EAD for one year. This July 22, 2017, the EAD and temporary legal status will expire again.
And it will be up to the Trump administration to either save these Haitians or drop the hammer and allow them to be deported back to a country where millions still struggle to survive.
So far, Haitian-American leaders have been mounting a campaign to lobby Trump for another TPS extension. Recently, Fanm Ayisyen nan Miyami—Haitian Women of Miami—and other groups held a news conference in Miami’s Little Haiti neighborhood.
“This is a real crisis for our community,” FANM Director Marleine Bastien was quoted as saying. “People are scared to death.”
Some are clinging to what Trump told them during his campaign last September as he courted Haitian immigrant voters at the Little Haiti Cultural Center in Miami.
“I really want to be your greatest champion,” he said then. “I will be your champion, whether you vote for me or not.”
Former Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, who supported Trump over Hillary Clinton, is among those clinging to those words.
“Donald Trump came to Little Haiti, and he said that he would be the best president for Haitians,” said Lamothe of the Dr. Louis G. Lamothe Foundation to aid rural Haiti. “Haitians take him at his word.”
But can they? So far Trump has done a lousy job of delivering on his campaign promises. The exception is his hardline immigration plan, as the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency increases sweeps in immigrant communities, detaining and deporting more immigrants, and as the Department of Justice pushes for faster deportation of criminal immigrants via video hearings.
That immigration hardline stance should indeed cause Haitians to worry.
But the reality is they should have known better than handing their vote to a conman who has absolutely no interest in Haiti or Haitians, to say the least. Now the gullibility of some may be the downfall of others.
The writer is CMO at Hard Beat Communications, Inc., which owns the brands NewsAmericasNow, CaribPRWire and InvestCaribbeanNow.