“A little over a year ago, President Trump shamed America when he described Haiti and other nations populated with brown and black people as “shitholes” and expressed a preference for immigrants from snow-white Norway.
The shame continues today with his administration’s push for an end to protections for more than 300,000 immigrants, including Haitians in South Florida who came to our country to escape natural disasters and political turmoil. If the courts don’t intervene, Congress must.
A series of federal lawsuits has put on hold the administration’s decision to allow Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to lapse for immigrants from six troubled countries, but nothing is yet decided. Protections for many of them are set to expire in July.
Last month, the first of those lawsuits went to court, with attorneys for the plaintiffs arguing that TPS recipients had been denied an opportunity to challenge Trump’s “categorical and defamatory assertions about all Haitians.” The suit also contends, quite reasonably considering the president’s statements and tweets, that the administration’s decision to eject the immigrants is based on a “racially discriminatory attitude toward all brown and black people.”
An estimated 46,000 Haitian immigrants received protected status after a January 2010 earthquake killed hundreds of thousands of people.
There also are an estimated 100,000 unauthorized immigrants from Haiti living in the United States.
Many of them have established roots in Miami and elsewhere in South Florida, where they’re raising families, working and contributing to their communities.
There’s no reason, aside from malice, for the Trump administration to end protections for immigrants from Haiti, Sudan, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Nepal or any of the other countries whose TPS status is nearing expiration.
The TPS program began during the George H.W. Bush administration in 1990, and extensions have been routinely granted when conditions have not substantially improved in the subject countries.
And in Haiti, things have not substantially improved.
The trial in New York featured internal administration emails showing that the Department of Homeland Security ignored government findings that forcing immigrants to return to their home countries could put their health and safety at risk.
Since then, Haiti has descended even deeper into economic and political turmoil, undermining any argument that the country has sufficiently recovered from the earthquake to justify allowing the protections to lapse.
Florida’s Sen. Marco Rubio has, in the past, supported extending TPS for Haitians. He wrote in the Miami Herald a little more than a year ago, “Our nation — especially my home state of Florida — has not only offered a helping hand to Haitians seeking refuge from these grave challenges, but also benefited significantly from their presence in and contributions to our country.”
Trump, who exhibits little empathy, isn’t likely to change his mind about Haitians who’ve come to America seeking a new life, though he should.
The lawsuits offer some hope that the courts will force the administration to do what’s right and extend the protections.
Failing that, Rubio and the rest of Florida’s congressional delegation should make clear to the president that Americans gain absolutely nothing from forcing Haitian immigrants out of their homes here.
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