Coronavirus Pandemic Complicates TPS for Haitians

Originally published by Larisa Karr, Haitian Times, May 26, 2020

Excerpt below:

Yolnick Jeune stood before Congress for the second time, impassioned not just for herself but for the sake of her five children, thinking about the hardships they had endured. One of her daughters had skipped from middle school to high school and now wished to attend college, but was unable to, solely because of her immigration status. Now, their situation was growing increasingly more urgent.

“I moved here 10 years ago and I take it very seriously that they are trying to take away TPS,” said Jeune, a 46-year-old life insurance agent from Haiti. “I am fighting for PPS, Permanent Protected Status, instead of TPS. After 10 years, I should be a citizen by now.”

Temporary Protected Status, also known as TPS, is a designation by the Department of Homeland Security that there are conditions in certain countries preventing nationals from returning home safely.

Last year, Haitian Brooklyners defended a federal lawsuit challenging President Donald Trump’s decision to end TPS for thousands of nationals from the island nation, including some calling for a pathway to citizenship.

Nine Haitians who have the protection, a nonprofit (Family Action Network Movement), and a business (Haiti Liberte) sued the government, saying they would be negatively impacted by the loss of the protection.

“One of the (individual) plaintiffs was a woman whose son had chronic asthma and he has a nebulizer,” said Ninaj Raoul, co-founder of the Brooklyn-based organization Haitian Women for Haitian Refugees. “He wouldn’t be able to get the services that he receives here if he went back to Haiti and Haiti’s in crisis right now.”

Haiti experts said there are multiple reasons why TPS holders should not be forced to go back.

With the recent onslaught of COVID-19, life in Haiti is poised to become even more chaotic. Although the country has less than 1,000 cases at the moment, medical experts say this is not indicative of the true number.

“The situation is very dire, not just in the political spaces, but in the social spaces. You have a lot of unrest, a lot of gangs and food scarcity is affecting 30-40 percent of the population,” said Dr. Jean-Claude Compas, a family physician originally from Miragoâne. “We don’t have the tests or the manpower and what we have is just the tip of the iceberg.

Dr. Compas said the real number of COVID-19 cases is about 15-20 percent higher than the ones that have been recorded. He recalled a conversation with Jean William Pape, Haiti’s leading infectious disease expert.

“Dr. Pape sent me a picture of a young guy who was about 25-35 years old that died in his facility. The family that brought him were crying, kissing and holding him,” said Dr. Compas. “They are getting infected and they are going to spread it all over. It’s as simple as that.”

TPS for Haitians started after the devastating earthquake in 2010 that killed more than 150,000 people. Federal data shows there were about 46,000 Haitian TPS holders in the U.S. as of 2018.

“The 2010 earthquake, the destruction caused by Hurricane Matthew, and the introduction of cholera to Haiti by the U.N. were like three sledgehammer blows and so it’s a closed question as to whether or not Haiti merited TPS designation,” said Steve Forester, the Immigration Policy Coordinator at the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti. “Now you’ve got the political turmoil and so it doesn’t make sense to deport people.

Read the full article here.