Some protections that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had put in place for Haitians after the 2010 earthquake are being removed. For the last five years, the U.S. has generally avoided deporting Haitians unless they have a criminal record or are thought to pose a national security threat. Now, many of those who sought shelter here face possible deportation. This change in policy will not affect Haitians with Temporary Protected Status (TPS).
Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Sarah Saldana told Congress that the move was being made in response to increased numbers of Haitians arriving at the Mexican border. Many of the Haitians had fled their homeland following the earthquake and found temporary settlement in Brazil. After that country’s economic downturn, they have migrated to the United States because the devastated Haitian economy cannot reabsorb them.
Now newly arriving Haitians are expected to be detained for prolonged periods and then removed from the United States if they cannot show a “credible fear” of being persecuted in Haiti. According to a statement issued by Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson:
Consistent with law, individuals who express a fear of return to Haiti will be screened by a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) asylum officer to determine whether they possess a credible fear of persecution or torture. Those determined to have a credible fear will be referred to immigration court for removal proceedings where they may apply for asylum or other forms of relief.
Haitian nationals currently covered by Temporary Protected Status are unaffected by this change in policy. Specifically, those Haitian nationals who have been continuously residing in the United States since January 12, 2011 and currently hold TPS may remain in the United States and are not subject to removal. These TPS beneficiaries also remain eligible for employment authorization. TPS for Haitian nationals has been extended through July 22, 2017.
It is ridiculous to think that Haiti is a safe place for these new arrivals. The country still suffers from the damage caused by the earthquake and the political situation there remains in flux. Many of the Haitians facing removal