On May 22, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly extended Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitian nationals for only six months instead of the usual 18 months. This was a disappointing decision and U.S. lawmakers, Haitian American community, immigration advocates and faith-based groups were dissatisfied and vowed to stay mobilized. DHS’ decision reflects poorly Haiti’s current conditions. It also fails to take into account the Haitian government’s direct request to redesignate “TPS for at least 18 months” for Haiti. While the DHS’ decision is not a total victory, it does reflect the power of the advocacy groups such as Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) whose work on that front has broadened support for TPS extension.
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How Mobilization Won a Partial Victory on Haiti TPS
By Steven Forester, Center of Constitutional Rights (CCR)
June 7, 2017
Secretary John Kelly’s May 22 announcement that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will extend Haiti’s Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for only six months rather than the usual 18, and may not extend it again, ignored the facts. But that he didn’t kill it altogether, as anti-immigrant zealots around him were urging, is testament to a continuing advocacy campaign.
Haiti is a textbook case for TPS, which was granted in 18-month increments after the massive 2010 earthquake, which killed 250,000. Quake recovery remains incomplete: tens of thousands remain homeless. An unchecked cholera epidemic introduced by U.N. peacekeepers in October, 2010 has killed 9,700 Haitians and sickened over 800,000 to date. Hurricane Matthew last October killed 1,000 Haitians and affected two million more, caused Haiti nearly $2 billion in damage, destroyed crops and animals and inundated broad regions, left hundreds of thousands without safe water, exacerbated the cholera epidemic, and has caused a widespread food insecurity crisis.
DHS’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) concluded in a detailed December assessment that conditions persist warranting Haiti TPS’s extension beyond its scheduled July 22, 2017 expiration date, and then-Secretary of State Kerry recommended its extension.
Donald Trump’s victory upended such expectations, galvanizing into action by early March an ad hoc coalition of Haiti activists and others worried about the imminent threat to Central Americans and others with TPS. DHS’s Haiti decision would be a first test; it was due by May 23, 60 days before the July 22 expiration date.
Consisting of religious, humanitarian, labor, immigration, and rights groups including SEIU, the Center for American Progress, and the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, to unjustly name only a few, the coalition contacted editorial writers and congressional staffers and drafted resolutions and national action alerts, amid a range of activities coordinated by weekly conference calls and daily email exchanges. Coalition members hosted telephonic media briefings with Haiti experts, organized advocacy letters, fed journalists compelling human interest stories, gave TV and radio interviews, wrote op-eds and press releases, shared reports on the dire economic consequences of ending TPS, organized rallies, and encouraged outreach to U.S. officials by Haiti’s government.
The array of powerful support materials they proactively solicited, generated, and publicized included ten New York Times, Washington Post, BostonGlobe, Miami Herald, New YorkDaily News, Sun Sentinel, Palm Beach Post and Orlando Sentinel editorials and support expressed in letters, op-eds, and one-on-one meetings. Urging Secretary Kelly to extend Haiti’s TPS designation were Republican Governors Rick Scott of Florida and Charlie Baker of Massachusetts; 100 members of Congress including 18 senators, e.g. 10 members of Florida’s congressional delegation including both senators and four Republicans; the entire Massachusetts congressional delegation and at least 14 members of New York’s, including House Homeland Security Emergency Preparedness Subcommittee Chairperson Dan Donovan; Congressional Progressive Caucus leaders and the Congressional Black Caucus; as well as 14 big city mayors, 550 U.S. physicians, 416 faith leaders, national Catholic leaders, 35 humanitarian organizations working in Haiti, and 330 organizations, leaders, and activists.
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