The USA vs Haitians: Politics Over People

The priorities of the age we live in, especially in terms of race and immigration, are becoming more and more apparent in the USA. The seeds of anti-immigrant sentiment planted during the campaign in 2016 have grown into fully developed rage.

The Department of Homeland Security has announced an end to a humanitarian program which gave a protected temporary resident status to 59,000 Haitians living in the USA since the 2010 earthquake. The Haitians are a portion of 320,000 people currently benefiting from the Temporary Protected Status program (U.S. Code § 1254a) (referred to for the remainder of this editorial as “TPS”), a program which was put into place in 1990 under President Bush as a means of offering protected status to foreign nationals who could not return to their countries due to ongoing armed conflict, environmental disasters, or “other extraordinary and temporary conditions”.

The rescinding of TPS is entirely legal, but that doesn’t mean its ethical.

The program’s exact wording is lengthy but the most pertinent section is as follows. At One Hundred For Haiti we are paying close attention to the end of Section (A), the basic idea behind Section (B), and the end of Section (C). After the following citation we will add comments and some clarity. The law says that the Attorney General may designate any foreign state to be under the guidelines of TPS if:

“(A) the Attorney General finds that there is an ongoing armed conflict within the state and, due to such conflict, requiring the return of aliens who are nationals of that state to that state (or to the part of the state) would pose a serious threat to their personal safety;

(B) the Attorney General finds that—
(i) there has been an earthquake, flood, drought, epidemic, or other environmental disaster in the state resulting in a substantial, but temporary, disruption of living conditions in the area affected,
(ii) the foreign state is unable, temporarily, to handle adequately the return to the state of aliens who are nationals of the state, and
(iii) the foreign state officially has requested designation under this subparagraph; or

(C) the Attorney General finds that there exist extraordinary and temporary conditions in the foreign state that prevent aliens who are nationals of the state from returning to the state in safety, unless the Attorney General finds that permitting the aliens to remain temporarily in the United States is contrary to the national interest of the United States.”

The TPS goes on to say that the status can last for up to eighteen months. As we stated earlier, rescinding it is legal. However we are most concerned with the idea that Haiti as a neighbor and country is still struggling to get on its feet not just after the seven years since the quake, but after over two hundred years of racist and anti-Haitian policy. It is not easily forgotten that in 1820, Senator Robert Hayne from South Carolina said, “Our policy with regard to Haiti is plain. We never can acknowledge her independence.” The threat of free slaves was simply too impossible to imagine for a country which profited wildly from racism and injustice against people of color, both financially and in terms of rallying public support behind American ideals. Racism has defined US foreign policy for two hundred years.

Today, Haitians in Haiti rely heavily on the money sent home from their family members in the USA. To be exact, the number is just under 30% (29.4%) of Haiti’s entire gross domestic product according to the World Bank figures for 2016. One Hundred For Haiti actively worked on behalf of, and directly with, such relatives early on in our organization and have seen the effects of this intra-family aid firsthand. To push these people out of the country not only does nothing for the USA, but it works actively against the people of Haiti.

We have a government desperate for any sort of legislative victory. They have targeted Haitians for eventual deportation as a means of coming across as tough on immigration. This choice fits right in line with proposed policies ranging from the wall against Mexico, the administrations position on DACA, and the Muslim immigration ban.

In terms of Section (A) above, One Hundred For Haiti board member Nathan Bean put it clearly when he said recently, “The idea that Haiti could absorb 50k people returning is complete bullshit. Ripping families apart and implementing half baked policy is an area of expertise for this morally corrupt administration.” The safety of all are affected when social conditions cannot support the population at hand. This is the case certainly in many parts of Port-au-Prince where these tens of thousands of deported Haitians would likely land upon their return.

In terms of Section (B), the cholera epidemic from 2010 to 2013, the crushing devastation of Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and the effects of Hurricane Irma in 2017, have been punishing blows to a country which is still struggling with corruption and socio-economic issues that prevent rapid development. To say that living conditions have been disrupted is an understatement.

In terms of Section (C), it is clear that making a political statement about an assumed threat from within our borders by deporting people is in “the national interest of the United States”. Of all the victories the administration could try and claim on behalf of the USA, this seems to be the most low hanging of all possible fruit.

While we don’t want to paint a portrait of Haitians as helpless, or unable to manage their own destiny, we do want to be clear that Haiti is still a country in development and deserving of support. To actively work against the development of Haiti is against the mission statement of One Hundred For Haiti and as a result we stand against the United States’ decision to reverse the Temporary Protected Status program.

These are most definitely troubled times.


For additional reading on anti-immigration policy in the USA, see: THIS ARTICLE in the Washington Post.