Haitians, Central Americans unite to fight deportation orders

Francisco Portillo, head of the Francisco Morazan Honduran Organization.
Francisco Portillo, head of the Francisco Morazan Honduran Organization.

Banding together for the first time, activists from Haiti and three Central American countries announced Wednesday they’ll meet next week with the presidents of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala to try to enlist their aid in persuading the Trump administration to halt plans to ship several hundred thousand immigrants back to Central America.

The newly allied activists also invited immigrants with Temporary Protected Status, or TPS — a Department of Homeland Security designation that allows otherwise undocumented immigrants to live and work in the United States — to an open meeting Thursday night to help plan strategy against deportations.

“Together, we think we can achieve this,” said Francisco Portillo, head of the Francisco Morazan Honduran Organization. “Unity is the name of the game,” agreed Marleine Bastien, from the Haitian Women of Miami group.

The Trump administration announced last month that it plans to end TPS status next year for about 580,000 immigrants from Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Haiti. The TPS designation is granted to immigrants from countries entrapped in wars, natural disasters and other adverse but temporary conditions.

Nicaraguans and Hondurans got TPS status in the wake of the catastrophic Hurrican Mitch in 1998; Salvadoreans following a brutal earthquake that rocked their capital in 2001, and Haitians after a cataclysmic earthquake in 2010. In each case, TPS has been extended many times.

But the activists at the press conference said their countries still suffer from shaky economies and political instability that will collapse with a sudden influx of returning expatriates. “Violence and delinquency are big problems for our Central American countries,” said Portillo, noting that street gangs are by all accounts out of control in Honduras and El Salvador.

Bastien said that from housing to drinking water, Haiti still suffers crippling hurricane damage. “Haiti is not yet ready to absorb 58,000 refugees [as well as] 100,000 American-born children,” she said.

The activists said they already have appointments to meet with the Central American presidents visiting Miami for a conference on regional security next week co-sponsored by the U.S. State Department and the Mexican government. They’re also planning to distribute 20,000 postcards pre-addressed to President Trump at the White House, asking him to extend TPS.