After settling in the United States for years after escaping natural disasters, immigrants received word last month the federal government would no longer guarantee their protection and instead deport them.
Elaine Chao, acting Secretary of Department of Homeland Security, announced this month both Haitian and Nicaraguan immigrants would have their Temporary Protected Status (TPS) removed by 2019. This means thousands will become undocumented and eligible for deportations.
First created by Congress as part of the Immigration Act of 1990, TPS allows anyone already in the US both a work permit and a deportation stay if their country experiences a natural disaster, ongoing war, or any other “extraordinary and temporary condition.” There are 10 countries, including Nicaragua and Haiti, that are covered under the agreement.
The decision to include Haiti on the list was made on January 21, 2010, eight days after a 7.0 earthquake hit Haiti that caused tens of thousands of deaths. The country is yet to fully recover with millions of residents requiring aid.
For the nearly 22,000 Haitian residents in New York’s neighborhoods such as St. Albans and Jamaica, this came as both a shock and surprise. U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks, a Democrat whose district covers some of these areas, denounced the decision to revoke TPS for Haitian-Americans and urged an extension of 18 months.
“This administration’s decision to send them back to Haiti is callous, as the country is still recovering from the destructive 2010 earthquake and the 2011 Cholera outbreak,” he said.
Meeks elaborated the announcement “is consistent with the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant agenda” that includes removing the status for people from Sudan and Nicaragua.
Nicaraguans across New York in neighborhoods such as Jackson Heights received word their protection would expire on November 6. The U.S. government added Nicaragua to the list in 1999 after it was hit by Hurricane Mitch.
With the administration reviewing status protection for Hondurans as well, officials, such as U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley, who represents Jackson Heights in his district, are expressing concerns on the motives behind the announcement.
“This decision is unnecessary and only serves to underscore how anti-immigrant forces in the White House now dictate the GOP agenda, despite volumes of evidence that show immigrants contribute to their communities and build up the American economy for all,” Crowley said.