The New York Immigration Coalition held a press conference call to discuss the program, the impact of Department of Homeland Security’s decision, and what comes next for immigrants in America
Today, the New York Immigration Coalition hosted a press conference call with Congresswoman Clarke, advocates, and a recipient of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) on why a six-month extension of the TPS program for Haitians falls short. Last month, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) stated that Secretary Kelly expects Haitian TPS-holders to use the next six months to “prepare for and arrange their departure from the United States,” with the implication that TPS will not continue for this population after January 22, 2018.
Organizer and Africana Studies specialist Tiffany Wheatland-Disu, who leads the Coalition’s Black Immigrant Engagement Initiative (BIEI), a collaborative of community-based organizations and legal service providers supporting black immigrants in New York City, moderated the conversation.
Congresswoman Yvette Clarke; TPS recipient Lys Isma; Executive Director of Haitian Women for Haitian Refugees Ninaj Raoul; Immigration Attorney Caroline Stephenson; and several members of the media attended.
The U.S. originally granted Haitians TPS in the aftermath of the devastating 2010 earthquake. TPS is a designation given to nationals of countries experiencing humanitarian crises, such as environmental disasters or epidemics, which prevent nationals from returning safely. The dire circumstances in Haiti have only worsened since 2010.
"We appreciate that this administration acknowledges the clear and compelling evidence supporting extension of TPS for the more than 55,000 Haitians living lawful, productive lives and contributing over $3 billion to the U.S. economy, said Tiffany Wheatland-Disu of the New York Immigration Coalition. “However, a mere six-month extension falls far short of what is needed. Assessments as recent as December 2016 indicate that conditions continue to warrant a full 18-month extension. Anything less would would be irresponsible and reckless.”
Wheatland-Disu noted that DHS has already failed to extend TPS protections to the three West African Nations of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone in the wake of the 2015-16 Ebola epidemic. “Forcing Haitians to return to a destabilized Haiti will impose a similar fate on the more than 55,000 Haitians currently protected by TPS,” she said.
Lys Isma, a recipient of TPS who came to the United States when she was nine, told participants that DHS’ announcement foreshadows a possible termination of the program. “This is bigger than the Haitian community. There are currently thirteen countries who are recipients, and this decision does nothing to provide insight into what may happen next. Where you live should never determine if you live.”
Congresswoman Yvette Clarke is a co-chair of the House Caribbean Caucus, and has introduced legislation that would substantially expand the TPS program to include all Haitian nationals who were in the United States before November 4, 2016. She said that TPS has provided invaluable support for recovery, allowing Haitian nationals here to send remittances to their relatives:
“Since the earthquake in 2010, TPS has been a lifeline – literally – for recovery efforts, as women and men here in the United States send desperately-needed remittances to family members and friends who are in Haiti, working to rebuild. The people of Haiti have been resilient, fighting to restore their civil society. But the situation remains precarious. With my colleagues in the Caribbean Caucus and powerful advocates such as the New York Immigration Coalition, I have strongly urged DHS to reconsider this ill-advised decision and to work with the government of Haiti to develop a plan that will meaningfully contribute to the recovery.”
The New York Immigration Coalition is an umbrella policy and advocacy organization for nearly 200 groups in New York State that work with immigrants and refugees.The NYIC aims to achieve a fairer and more just society that values the contributions of immigrants and extends opportunity to all by promoting immigrants’ full civic participation, fostering their leadership, and providing a unified voice and a vehicle for collective action for New York’s diverse immigrant communities.