Fabiola Santiago

Trump once told Haitians he’d be their ‘greatest champion.’ Now he wants to deport them

Protesters gather to oppose President Trump's immigration measures

Protesters gathered at the Stephen P. Clark Government Center in Miami on May, 2, 2017.
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Protesters gathered at the Stephen P. Clark Government Center in Miami on May, 2, 2017.

For a fanatically anti-immigrant presidential candidate, Donald Trump’s campaign stop to hobnob with members of Miami’s Haitian community and make campaign promises many of us suspected he wouldn’t keep was, at best, bizarre.

But a hopeful crowd of voters welcomed Trump at a marketplace and visitor center in the heart of Little Haiti in September. Some were Republicans, some independents, some frustrated Democrats. Some were well-to-do, others working class, others activists. One was a former finance minister of Haiti.

Trump told Haitians they shared “a lot of common values” and pushed the narrative that the Clintons failed Haiti in the aftermath of the devastating 2010 earthquake. Money slated for recovery, he told them, went to “their cronies.”

“I really want to be your greatest champion,” Trump said.

Flash forward to President Trump. There’s been no appointment of a Haitian American as ambassador to Haiti, as he led them to believe he would do. Heck, there’s not even a properly staffed State Department with an expert hand in charge of Western Hemisphere affairs.

But there’s a battalion operating at the Department of Homeland Security working to deport millions of immigrants without permanent resident status in the country — and it’s the Haitians’ turn.

In a memo to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, the acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, James McCament, said the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) allowing some 58,000 Haitians to live and work in the United States since the earthquake — which left 300,000 people dead and 1.5 million injured — should be terminated instead of renewed. It expires on July 22.

Unless enough public outcry reverses the course, this means deportation to a poverty-stricken nation that hasn’t recuperated from one natural disaster before it’s been hit with another, from deadly floods to a cholera epidemic brought by U.N. peacekeepers to last summer’s Hurricane Matthew.

The high levels of displacement and homelessness, food and water shortages, and lack of sanitary conditions in many parts of the country make it very difficult for the country to reabsorb returned nationals, a panel of experts eloquently argued Tuesday.

“Rains have started and there’s already been flooding,” Dr. Paul Farmer, who shuttles between Harvard University and Haiti, said via phone conference. “This morning the water is dark brown. I wouldn’t drink it. I wouldn’t even bathe in it.”

To all that suffering, add political instability to the mix.

Matthew jeremie ae epf
This file photo of post-Hurricane Matthew devastation is an example of the environmental fragility of Haiti and one of the reasons why the 58,000 Haitians in the United States are asking the Trump administration to extend, not terminate, their Temporary Protected Status, which expires July 22. PATRICK FARRELL pfarrell@miamiherald.com

Given those circumstances, the best course of action is to extend the humanitarian TPS, said Leon Rodriguez, who was director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services from 2014 until recently.

“In the end, that is actually what promotes regional and national security,” Rodriguez said.

The displaced Haitians who’ve resettled in communities like South Florida and the New York and New Jersey areas are not only graduating children from our schools, starting businesses and providing a much needed workforce for the healthcare industry, but they’re sending desperately needed remittances to Haiti.

What does Trump have to say about his administration’s move to deport people he promised to champion?

Nothing. His spokesman has declined to comment.

This is but another episode of the Trump administration’s cowardly handling of immigration policy by pushing back on the most vulnerable.

Trump sought out the Haitian vote because there was no stone he was going to leave unturned in his effort to dish dirt on the Clintons. He knew that in a race with razor-thin margins every vote counted. One too many Haitians gave him theirs. They should’ve known better.

Trump knew exactly what he could gain that day when he used Miami’s Haitians to take another shot at Hillary Clinton by using the disenchantment of people who believed that the Clinton Foundation could have and should have done more for Haiti.

They’ll pay a high price now for believing in Trump.

The only campaign promises he’s kept so far have been those he made to a white supremacist segment of America threatened by the multiracial and multiethnic makeup of a country enriched by immigrants.

That day in Little Haiti, when Trump flattered Haitians by being the first presidential candidate to pay them a visit, they should’ve read the signs of a handful of protesters outside.

“Little Haiti says No to Trump’s racism and hate,” they said.

It was easily predictable that the most anti-immigrant president of our time would dump their cause and slate their loved ones for deportation.

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