Politics of Poverty

Haitians with Temporary Protected Status on Notice: Are Salvadorans and Hondurans next?

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Oxfam distribution of Hygiene Kits in November 2012. (Photo: Anna Fawcus / Oxfam America)

On May 22, 2017, DHS Secretary Kelly extended Temporary Protection Status (TPS) for Haitians for only 6 months. Here we discuss the consequences and wonder if TPS will end for Salvadorans and Hondurans.

Yesterday, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly announced a six-month extension of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitians — an immigration status that provides employment authorization and protection from deportation to people who cannot return to their home countries due to unsafe conditions such as natural disasters or armed conflict. Typically, TPS extensions have been for 18 months or longer.

Yesterday’s decision by DHS buys Haitians with TPS only a little more time; six months to be exact. Sadly, it appears that this Administration might end the program affecting roughly 58,000 people who could be forced to return to Haiti in January 2018.  Yesterday, the Huffington Post quoted an unnamed DHS official in an article as saying:

“We are strongly encouraging current TPS recipients to take advantage of this six-month period to resolve their affairs, to include obtaining travel documentation,” a DHS official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told reporters on a press call. “Congress designated the program … by the name ‘temporary protected status.’ It’s not supposed to be permanent.”

It was not originally meant to be permanent, but have conditions really improved so much that Haitians can safely return home?  Oxfam does not think so, and we have on the ground experience that backs this up.  Oxfam has worked in Haiti since 1978, partnering with women’s rights organizations, farmers’ organizations, government agencies, universities, local officials, and Haitian advocacy groups. We were there after the  7.0 earthquake in 2010 and the subsequent disasters, including Hurricane Matthew, the UN-introduced cholera epidemic and three years of consecutive drought  – all on top of prolonged political instability.  In Oxfam, we know that Haiti has not been rebuilt since 2010 and today is in no position to absorb the more than 50,000 Haitians facing deportation.

Not only would deporting TPS holders cause greater instability, people would certainly face the risks of illness, malnutrition, abuse and even death.  Moreover, their family members who depend on the remittances from abroad, will face greater hardship.  According to the World Bank, remittances account for 25 percent of Haiti’s gross domestic product (GDP)  and in 2015, an estimated $1.344 billion—15 percent of Haiti’s GDP—was sent to the country by family members living in the US alone.

Disturbingly, DHS Secretary Kelly will have to make a decision on the same issue for Hondurans and Salvadorans who currently enjoy TPS. Does the same fate await them?  There are over 186,000 Salvadorans and 70,200 Hondurans with TPS right now who, like the Haitians, have built families, businesses and homes here in the United States. Will they be returned to their countries racked with violence, insecurity and minimal opportunities as we have written about before?

Last fall, candidate Trump promised he would be Haiti’s greatest champion; now as President, he might instead deport Haitians.  We must ask ourselves: How will these people and their families survive? What, at the end of the day, does the United States really achieve by these xenophobic, inhumane policies? This type of action will never make America great.

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