WASHINGTON, United States (CMC) — The acting director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), James McCament, has issued a recommendation that the United States end temporary protections by next January for 50,000 Haitians who are allowed to remain in the US following a series of natural disasters that have crippled the French-speaking Caribbean nation.
In a letter, a copy of which was obtained by USA Today, McCament said that conditions in Haiti have improved enough to end Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitians.
The Obama administration first offered TPS to Haitians following the devastating 2010 earthquake.
The protection has been extended several times, with the latest set to expire on July 22.
The report says McCament proposed an extension to January to allow for a “period of orderly transition” but said the programme should not be extended beyond then.
However, that a final decision on the Haitians’ fate rests with the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly and according to spokesman David Lapan, Kelly has not yet made that decision.
In response, Helene O’Brien, Florida Director of 32BJ SEIU, the largest property service workers labour union in the United States, described the USCIS’ recommendation to end TPS for Haitians as “unconscionable and oblivious to the dire conditions that exist in Haiti today.”
32BJ members include office cleaners, security officers, doormen, porters, maintenance workers, bus drivers and aides, window cleaners, school cleaners, and food service workers.
O’Brien said Haiti is still reeling from multiple disasters, including the 2010 earthquake that left tens of thousands homeless; a cholera epidemic; and Hurricane Mathew, a category 4 hurricane that cost Haiti US$2.7 billion and left half a million children without safe drinking water.
“It flies in the face of reason to think that Haiti could safely assimilate 50,000 people when there are still 60,000 earthquake survivors who are homeless and living in camps,” she said in release
“Not only would this destabilize the country, it would also have vast negative consequences on our economy here at home,” she added, stating that Haitian TPS holders contribute US$280 million a year to the US’ gross domestic product (GDP).
“What will happen to local economies in Miami, New York, or Boston when small mom and pop Haitian businesses suddenly board up?” O’Brien asked. “What about the millions that employers will have to spend to hire and retrain new staff? Worse still, what will happen to the families that will be ripped apart and children who will be left behind?
“We strongly urge DHS Secretary Kelly to reject the USCIS’ recommendation and extend TPS to the thousands of vulnerable Haitians that have been living in and contributing to this country,” she continued. “Doing so would avert a humanitarian disaster and reflect the US’ tradition of protecting people from unsafe conditions that are outside of their control.”