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After Devastating Earthquake, Biden Administration Must End Deportations, Protect Haitians, Expand TPS

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Compounding humanitarian crisis demand urgent action from Biden Administration

On Saturday, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti and the death count is already at 1,900 with widespread damage, especially across the southern third of the country. The natural disaster hit amid instability following the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, widespread poverty, hurricane season, kidnappings, violence, and the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 crisis. In the face of a tragic humanitarian crisis that has contributed to further deterioration of country conditions, the Biden Administration must immediately end all deportation flights to Haiti, release Haitians from immigration detention and suspend expedited removal of Haitians.

In addition to not adding to the crisis and chaos in Haiti by deporting people, the goal of U.S. policy as it relates to immigration should be to get as many Haitians working legally as quickly as possible. This will allow them to send money and aid to families back in Haiti, thereby accelerating recovery and the path to stability. Expanding Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haiti and allowing more people to seek protection is one concrete, commonsense policy response. There are also thousands of Haitians who were pushed across the U.S. border with Mexico, many of whom have been waiting for years, prevented from applying for asylum in violation of U.S. law. They should be paroled into the U.S. in an orderly process to apply for asylum and be allowed to work while their cases are adjudicated.

Leading observers agree, now is the time for the Biden Administration to use their power and do right by a Haitian people devastated by tragedy.

As Fabiola Santiago writes in the Miami Herald

“…There’s a point of strength for Haiti — and it lies in its diaspora in the United States. That’s why a component of the U.S. government strategy to help Haiti should be to

recognize that giving protected status to Haitians in this country is a stabilizing force for Haiti. Not only Temporary Protected Status for victims of disasters that keeps Haitians in perennial immigration limbo, but also pathways to residency and citizenship. Expand TPS and stop deportations; it’s the least the U.S. government can do now for Haitians. They shouldn’t have to live under the constant threat of family separations and job losses caused by immigration protections being stripped away. A stable and prosperous Haitian community here can be a driving force in the development of a more resilient and sustainable Haiti.”

As the Miami Herald reports, Haitian advocates are also calling for the Biden Administration to expand TPS: 

“Tessa Petit, a Haitian-American who works as the Florida Immigrant Coalition’s director of operations in Miami, said extending the TPS eligibility deadline is the bare minimum the administration should do. ‘Between July 29 and August 14 when we had the earthquakes there are Haitians who have crossed the border and are applying for asylum,’ Petit said, referring to the U.S. southern border. ‘Now more than ever it will be impossible to return them to a country that will not be able to give them support and is unsafe for them.’ … Ira Kurzban, an immigration attorney who works extensively on TPS litigation for Haitians, said the administration is likely to keep extending Haiti’s TPS designation date until conditions on the ground begin to improve…’I think it’s unconscionable for Biden to send people back now,’ Kurzban said.”

TheNewsday Editorial Board observed: 

“Haiti needs our help. Right now that means humanitarian aid, with U.S. military support. Going forward, the U.S. may again have to expand Haiti’s Temporary Protected Status designation, temporarily stop deportations, and find ways to allow additional Haitian refugees to come here. Haiti’s problems, however, run far deeper and none have simple solutions … Haiti lacks a clear path forward, even with help from the U.S. and other countries. But we can start by providing help and hope to the people of Haiti now.”

Douglas Rivlin, Director of Communication for America’s Voice, said: 

“U.S. immigration policy formulated under Democratic and Republican administrations has gone out of its way to single out Haitians for exclusion, deportation, detention, and denial of basic human rights under U.S. law. The Biden administration has tools at its disposal to help Haiti and Haitians right now as the nation suffers through successive manmade and natural disasters and the President and his team should use those tools aggressively. An investment in the Haitian diaspora in the United States is an investment in a stable and strong Haiti and will benefit the United States. Even as other pressing matters impact refugee, asylum, citizenship and foreign aid priorities, making Haiti an afterthought is, and always has been, a mistake.”