The Associated Press reports that internal e-mails at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reveal a search by the Trump administration for evidence of Haitians with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) committing crimes or collecting public benefits. Because the current Haitian TPS program expires on July 22, 2017, Haitian immigrants worry that DHS is collecting data to justify not renewing it. An announcement of whether a TPS program is to be renewed typically occurs about 60 days prior to the expiration date.
DHS Policy Chief Kathy Nuebel Kovarik sent e-mails to staff at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), telling them that DHS Secretary John Kelly “is going to be sending a request to us” for more data on Haitians with TPS. According to the AP, the “request for criminal data for an entire community is unorthodox.” Such data has never been used by DHS to make determinations on TPS in the past. However, the AP reports, “the request fits in with President Donald Trump’s broader, tough-on-immigration focus that is a core demand of his political supporters.”
Haitians were granted TPS after the 2010 earthquake killed nearly 300,000 people and left the country without much of its infrastructure. Approximately 58,000 Haitians applied for Temporary Protected Status, which allows them to live and work in the United States temporarily.
Randy McGorty, Director of Catholic Legal Services in Miami, told the Miami Herald that “It’s a big show… I can’t believe that this is the focus of the decision on whether or not to extend TPS. TPS is a form of humanitarian relief; it makes no sense.” Marleine Bastien, Director of Haitian Women of Miami, said that “It is disheartening to hear that instead of renewing TPS for these hardworking families who are at risk of losing their jobs, Secretary Kelly has decided to go on a witch hunt for criminals.”
While ending TPS may lead to increased deportations to already devastated Haiti, it is even more likely to drive tens of thousands of newly undocumented Haitians underground.
Hondurans and Salvadorans will also face the question of whether their TPS programs will be renewed later this year.