UndocuBlack and NILC Seek to Uncover the Truth Behind Trump Administration TPS Decision

May 17, 2017

Juan Gastelum, [email protected], 213-375-3149
Hayley Burgess, [email protected], 202-384-1279

UndocuBlack and NILC Seek to Uncover the Truth Behind Trump Administration TPS Decision

Civil Rights and Social Justice Groups to Urge the Trump Administration to Reauthorize Temporary Protected Status for Haitians

WASHINGTON — Days before the Trump Administration announces whether it will re-authorize Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitian migrants, civil rights and social justice leaders emphasized the importance of the program for Haitians in the United States and in Haiti, as well as for the national interests of both countries.

The call for reauthorization of TPS for Haitians comes after the Associated Press last week exposed leaked emails from high-ranking DHS officials requesting data on Haitian nationals’ use of public benefits and crime rates. Although DHS officials have denied any connection between these requests and the timing of their decision, the news sent shockwaves through the Haitian community.

UndocuBlack and NILC filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the agencies involved in the adjudication process to uncover the administration’s decision-making. Those agencies are the Department of State, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the DHS sub agencies U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

On a conference call with reporters Wednesday, representatives for the National Immigration Law Center, the UndocuBlack Network, the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI), and the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) urged the administration to extend the program beyond its current July 22 expiration, noting that recovery efforts following the devastating 2010 earthquake and, more recently, Hurricane Matthew in 2016, have been uneven.

Lys Isma, a student who works in a Biology Genetics lab at her University in Florida, described the consequences of the 2010 earthquake for her and her family and what could happen to them if TPS for Haiti is not renewed. Isma is a member of UndocuBlack who has lived in the United States since she was nine months old.

“It shouldn’t be an easy decision to send somebody to the poorest country in this half of the world, where they don’t have any memories and where they can hardly speak the language,” Isma said. “Where you live should never determine if you live.”

TPS gives individuals from designated countries temporary permission to live and work in the United States on humanitarian grounds if they are here at times of great natural disaster or civil strife in their home country. Thirteen countries, including Haiti, are currently designated for TPS.

According to media reports, 58,000 Haitians stand to lose TPS and would be forced to return to their ravaged homeland if the designation is withdrawn. The Trump administration has until May 23, 2017, to announce its decision.

Tia Oso, National Organizer at the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI), said:

“TPS for Haiti is a vital program, not just for the Haitian community, but for everyone that lives and works alongside them in Boston, Miami, Brooklyn and beyond. The Black Alliance for Just Immigration is calling on everyone to stand with the Haitian diaspora in the U.S. and fight for TPS, and condemn the Trump administration’s racist, xenophobic witch-hunt against Haitian TPS holders and other immigrants.”

Olivia Golden, Executive Director at the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), a national anti-poverty organization, said:

“The federal government’s probe into public benefit use—which in practice mostly means health and nutrition supports for children—is deeply concerning. It is clearly part of a larger agenda by the Trump Administration that began in January to create fear and a chilling effect across immigrant communities, threatening access to the fundamental health care and nutrition that families need and deserve. Scaring parents away from accessing critical services for their citizen children as well as potentially deporting thousands of Haitian TPS holders would have deeply damaging long-term consequences for not only Haitian TPS holders, their families, and their communities, but also our shared national interest.”

Alvaro Huerta, Staff Attorney at the National Immigration Law Center, said:

“TPS has been an economic lifeline to Haitians both here in the United States and in Haiti. Haitian-Americans have built economic and social ties to this country, and they have friends and family here. These ties would be severed if these individuals lost TPS designation, and the economic ripple effects would extend far beyond TPS holders themselves. We are deeply concerned that the rules for TPS may be shifting for Haitians, and we want to know why.”

Jonathan Jayes-Green, Co-Creator and National Coordinator of the Undocublack Network, said:

“Renewing TPS is about maintaining the dignity of human lives and protecting their choice to migrate to avoid extreme circumstances in Haiti and live. We’ve seen the extraordinary measures and the discriminatory factors the administration is taking into consideration while weighing this decision. As Black immigrant communities, we are very aware of how agencies, organizations and institutions have sought to equate Blackness and poverty with criminality, and used that mantle to deny our communities of our human rights. That’s why today we took the unprecedented step of filing this FOIA Request, our first as an organization.”

Audio for today’s call is available at https://www.nilc.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/HAITI-051717.mp3

A copy of today’s FOIA request is available at https://www.nilc.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Haitian-TPS-FOIA.pdf