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ICYMI: End of TPS Creates Fear, Anxiety for Medford’s Haitian Community

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Termination of TPS Hits Massachusetts Communities Hard

 Wicked Local Medford piece highlights a Massachusetts city consumed with fear and anxiety as many of its Haitian community members worry about the looming end of Temporary Protected Status (TPS).

Medford, Massachusetts has been hit especially hard by the revocation of the program:

Over 40,000 Haitians live in the Boston area, making up the third-largest Haitian population in the country. Medford has one of the largest Haitian populations in the region, and French Creole and Haitian Creole are among the most common languages other than English spoken in Medford.

The piece in its entirety can be accessed here, and the full text follows:

Medford’s Haitian community is worried about the looming end of Temporary Protected Status for Haitians.

Editor’s note: The names of people who have Temporary Protected Status (TPS) have been changed to protect their identity, as indicated by asterisks (*).

Luke* is a student at Medford High School who has lived with his family in the United States since he was 3 years old, and in Medford since 2011.

But by July of next year, he and his parents might have to move back to Haiti, a country he hasn’t set foot in since he was a toddler.

Luke is one of nearly 60,000 Haitians who live and work in the United States through Temporary Protected Status (TPS), a program that allows individuals from certain potentially dangerous or unstable countries – including Haiti – to remain temporarily in the United States.

The U.S. government has offered TPS to Haitians living in the United States since 2010, when a catastrophic earthquake hit the island country and killed hundreds of thousands of people. But TPS for Haitians expired on Jan. 22, and the Trump administration announced that it would not renew it last November.

Haitians currently living here have until March 19 to re-register for the status, which allows them to remain until the program’s expiration date of July 22, 2019.

For Luke, moving back to Haiti would be a huge adjustment.

“For people around my age, it’d be like having to start over,” he said. “We came here to start a new life, a better life. Going back there [would not be] really good.”

It could also mean leaving behind his younger siblings, who were born in the United States. And it could hurt their extended family financially, as some of their relatives who still live in Haiti rely on money that Luke’s mother sends back to them.

“We have a lot of [family] in Haiti,” said Luke’s mother, Anna.* “We have one sister in Haiti, and she has three kids. I have to send money to them, my cousin [and] my uncle.”

Anna, Luke and Luke’s father first moved from Haiti to the southern United States in 2006 and received asylum status. After Anna lost her job, she moved to Medford to be closer to relatives who already lived here.

“I have some cousins here [and] my auntie,” she said. “They asked me to come here to find a job.”

Before moving to Medford, Anna worked as a housekeeper in the South. For the past seven years, she has been working as a caregiver for elderly people in the Boston area. She is also an active parishioner at a local church in Medford.

Anna hopes that her family will be able to obtain green cards or other legal measures that will allow them to remain in the country, but she fears for her future. Neither of her parents live in Haiti anymore, and she doesn’t know where her family would live if they had to move back there, nor what she would do for work.

“It’s bad because … the president is going to send people back home, and is going to take my kids too,” she said. “It’s bad because I don’t have [any] place to stay. I’m here and I’m working.”

Community leaders search for solutions

Over 40,000 Haitians live in the Boston area, making up the third-largest Haitian population in the country. Medford has one of the largest Haitian populations in the region, and French Creole and Haitian Creole are among the most common languages other than English spoken in Medford.

Pastor Ronald Pierre of the Evangelical Church of Holiness on Otis Street serves a large Haitian population from Medford, Malden, Everett and other surrounding communities. He and his wife, Immacula, immigrated themselves from Haiti in 1981 and became citizens in 1991.

Based on their interactions with the local Haitian community, they estimate that 15-20 percent of Haitians in Medford have TPS.

“It could be higher too, because people don’t tell you,” Ronald added.

Ronald and Immacula said they worry about people living here who have TPS, as many of them have children, jobs and roots in the community.

“Some of them have a house here, and they didn’t know [TPS] was going to change,” Immacula said. “I wish … they could do something for them to stay. We know how Haiti is right now. We don’t want to send anyone back right now to suffer.”

Ronald travels to Haiti every three months to provide humanitarian relief, and he disagrees with the federal government’s assessment that Haitians no longer need TPS because of improving conditions in the country.

“I just came last week from Haiti, to give toys and food,” he said. “I went with toys for over 300 children, and I had 5,000-10,000 children wanting to come pick up things.”

He said that many people are still displaced and homeless from the 2010 earthquake.

“People are still in the streets sleeping, with no house, no food, no water,” Ronald said. “That’s why I tried to go down and help because they can’t provide everything for the people. I [am trying] to work with the Haitian consulate in Boston to see what we can do for the coming days.”

Ronald and Immacula have observed that many Haitians with TPS in the area have fled to Canada, or are disassociating themselves from public life for fear of being deported.

“I tell them to stay and pray for the [U.S.] government,” Ronald said. “You never know what they might do.”

In addition to fears of deportation, many Haitians in the area struggle financially, Ronald said. He estimated that approximately 70 percent of Haitians in Medford live in public housing.

One prominent person in the city who has been attentive to the concerns of the city’s Haitian community is Marie Cassidy of the Medford Family Network, Ronald and Immacula said.

″[Cassidy] has always tried to sit down with me and ask questions,” Ronald said. “She really understands the problem … She’s the only one who has called me and thinks about the TPS people.”

Cassidy told the Transcript that she has noticed a decline in attendance among some previously active Haitian families at Medford Family Network’s programming.

“Participation on the part of several of our families who are very active has diminished,” Cassidy said. “I suspect it is fear of the unknown. We’re trying to do our best to continue to welcome all families.”

Ronald and Immacula would like to see similar attention paid to the issue from members of Congress, governors and mayors across the country. Ronald plans to meet with Mayor Stephanie M. Burke to discuss TPS and local short-term solutions to the problem in the coming weeks.

“That’s the best thing to do as a … governor, senator, congressman or mayor of a city,” Ronald said. “If you have a [Haitian community] leader close to you, call that person and sit down for five minutes, 10 minutes or three minutes and ask questions.”