What Haitians Should Do Now That TPS Has Ended

For months now, Haitian activists, lawyers, and political leaders have known that the Trump Administration would likely end the Temporary Protected Status that had provided Haitians in the US since the 2010 earthquake with temporary residency and work permits, but no path to longterm legal residency.

On Monday, the Trump Administration announced that TPS for Haitians would end on July  22, 2019. Once the Dreamers became this administration's political football to get a border wall built despite the outpouring of support from Congressional members and Hollywood stars and the Sudanese, Salvadoreans, and Nicaraguans lost their TPS designation,  the writing was on the wall for TPS for Haitians. Furthermore, the anti-black and anti-immigrant sentiments that have been cornerstones of the Trump Administration made the 18-month wind-down period that the Haitian government requested and received the second best case scenario. Rather than ending TPS immediately and ordering an immediate return to Haiti for people on TPS, it allows some breathing room for people to get their affairs in order.

Still, this is a painful reality for the Haitian community in the US. Families will be torn apart, children will lose their parents, and families will lose their breadwinners. Already vulnerable people will become even more vulnerable.

However, now is actually the time that the real work begins. Earlier this summer I'd laid out a  strategy for the end of TPS in the Miami Herald. In light of the official announcement, I'd like to revisit what I'd proposed: 

"1. Seek Residency

@@It’s inherently contradictory that a group of people can continually have temporary status extended without any reasonable path to residency@@, leaving them in legal limbo for decades. People with immediate family (parents, spouse, or children) who are U.S. citizens should begin the process of becoming U.S. residents. Thus, our first priority must be partnering with immigration attorneys nationwide to get as many people as possible off TPS and on a path to legal residency. Many people have no idea that they qualify for other options and how to go about changing their immigration status, requiring educational campaigns as well as legal assistance.

2. Challenge the Broken Immigration System

Oer 300,000 people (including 50,000 Haitians) have TPS. For those on TPS who have no current means of applying for residency through a family member, activist lawyers, and legal clinics should begin mounting legal challenges to the prohibition of TPS recipients from applying to regularize their status. If the federal government deemed them worthy of living and working in this country legally for decades (continuously renewing their TPS status), @@why shouldn’t TPS recipients eventually be able to apply for residency?@@

The ASPIRE Act, a bill pushing for a path to residency for TPS recipients and at least 1 other TPS reform bill have been proposed by Members of Congress. Rather than being reactive after policies are passed that affect us, Haitian constituents must become a common presence on Capitol Hill, advocating for these permanent solutions to TPS. This means national Lobby Days that position the hundreds of thousands of Haitians in the United States as a unified voting bloc with specific demands and a  generation of leaders willing to work together, making Congressional allies to push forth our agenda on the Hill — a similar strategy used by DACA advocates.

@@When we tie our advocacy to our voting power rather than just our power to protest, we can then begin to proactively shift policy and political discourse in our favor at the highest levels of government@@ so that we are no longer an afterthought to elected officials.

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3. Build Coalitions

TPS is just one of the many battles that our community faces, but it is not at all unique to just Haitians. It's a systemic issue that stems from anti-black and anti-immigrant policies that impact every aspect of American life for people of color. There are national coalitions and diverse organizations working on long-term strategies to address policies that affect immigrants specifically and communities of color more broadly. While Haitians make up less than 2 percent of the foreign-born population in the United States, our ties to immigrant strongholds such as New York City, South Florida, and Boston give our community organizations the leverage to continue to align ourselves with national organizations representing Latino, Caribbean, and black communities as well as broader human rights to work toward our shared interests.

Collaboration is vital to pushing for change.

4. Put Forth a Reintegration Plan for Haiti

Finally, we must acknowledge that, while the post-quake reconstruction has failed to reach its targets and cholera remains an issue, Haiti isn’t overwhelmed by a humanitarian crisis like in 2010- a criteria for TPS. Although Hurricane Matthew wreaked havoc on the south of Haiti, Irma skirted its northern coast and this past hurricane season was relatively uneventful for Haiti even as it left much of the Caribbean struggling to rebuild. Most of the country is safe, stable, and hungry for sustainable economic and social investment. Thus, it's time to hold the Haitian government to higher standards to invest in the future of the country and their people.

Haiti suffers from a brain drain (a crisis in its own right) with most of its middle class living in the diaspora. Instead of continuing this exodus, @@we should pressure the Haitian government to create a pathway to return to Haiti so that people on TPS can return on their own before deportations ensue.@@  Rather than its usual disregard for the plight of its people, a savvy Haitian government would see the end of TPS as an economic boon, welcoming back a cadre of Haitian medical professionals, teachers, engineers, accountants, etc. A program to integrate them into the public and private sectors that offered equitable salaries would allow returnees to contribute to Haiti’s long-term development."

The next 18 months will require critical collaboration between lawyers, legal scholars, US politicians,  activists, immigrants, and, yes, the Haitian government to put a plan in place both in the US and in Haiti that allows for a smooth, dignified transition when TPS ends. No one wants to see immigration raids in Little Haiti, Miami or Brooklyn in 2019- don't even give Trump the satisfaction of rounding black people up and putting them through a purposely dehumanizing deportation process.