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PRI: A Family Split Between the U.S. and Haiti Dreads Looming Loss of Legal Status

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Congress Must Pass the Dream and Promise Act to Protect Dreamers, TPS & DED Holders

In a new story for PRI, Amy Bracken portrays the stories of Haitian Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders and their families back home, who now face devastating risks if they lose their legal status as a result of the Trump administration’s unlawful termination of TPS.

Annette, a Boston resident, has been able to support her family back in Haiti in the wake of the county’s recovery from the 2010 earthquake. Under TPS, Annette has been able to work legally in the U.S. and send financial aid back to her relatives in Haiti, where the economy is still in bad shape. However, that all fell into limbo when the Trump administration announced TPS for Haitians would be terminated.

Without permanent protection, Annette and her family find themselves living in fear. They’re one of the many families threatened by this administration’s inhumane decision to strip immigrants of their legal status, and are one of the many reasons why Congress must swiftly pass the Dream and Promise Act.

The article is excerpted below and available online here.

Marie is 66 years old and still lives in the compound where she grew up, in the hills of Laboule, beyond Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince.

… Marie was lucky no one in her family was among the hundreds of thousands that died that day. But they did lose their economic lifeline: Her bustling downtown Port-au-Prince restaurant was destroyed.

“After the earthquake, we despaired,” she says. “We didn’t think there was a life for us anymore.”

… Annette and her immediate family are beneficiaries of Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, a provisional humanitarian relief program that allows immigrants from certain countries to live and work in the US if their home countries have been devastated by war or natural disaster. Congress created the program in 1990, and today some 320,000 nationals of 10 countries are TPS holders. The status offers a reprieve for 18 months at a time, with near-guaranteed extensions. Until now.

The Trump administration has canceled TPS designations for six nationalities, including Haiti, arguing that the countries are now ready to receive their citizens. The move is being challenged in US federal court.

The fate of families like Annette and Marie’s hang in the balance until a final court decision — or until Congress passes legislation granting TPS holders permanent legal status. Both women requested their names not be used in order to protect their family’s identity, as Annette and her children could become undocumented in the US if they lose TPS. The end of TPS would plunge their family into a financial crisis at a time when Haiti’s economy is in shambles, led by a government mired in corruption. All they can do is wait.

… “Definitely before TPS, it was a real struggle, and I still think it is,” says Annette’s 25-year-old daughter, Kettly. “But now myself, my mom, my dad, my brother, we all work, so it definitely got better over time.”

The family hustles. Kettly is a full-time social worker who is getting her master’s in public administration by night. Her brother works at an engineering firm while getting his bachelor’s degree. Her dad has a job with an assisted living facility, and her mom, Annette, cooks at a restaurant.

With TPS, Annette and her family in Boston have been able to send money back to their relatives in Haiti in a form of indirect financial aid.

… “The ones over there [in the US], they help us in Haiti a lot, in the rebuilding we’re doing,” says Marie’s niece, Louise. She says the house is the best example of what remittances have enabled the family in Laboule to do.

… In March, Democratic representatives introduced a bill to give TPS holders permanent residency. Although it might pass in the House, it is unlikely to make it through the Republican-controlled Senate.

… Although TPS holders make up only a fraction of those sending money back to Haiti (US citizens, green card holders, and others also contribute), Emile believes termination of their status would be a blow to the country. Today, the economy is in bad shape, even by Haitian standards. Jobs and wages are meager, a gas shortage is crippling daily life, and inflation is soaring — in the double digits for more than three years, according to Emile. Inflation recently hit a ten-year high of 17% overall, but for food, it’s at 20%.

… For Marie, it would be a blow if her family in the US could no longer work legally or had to come back to Haiti.

“That would be distressing for us, because there isn’t work in Haiti,” she says.

Construction of her home would likely come to a halt, suspending it indefinitely in its skeleton state. That means she would continue to live in a shelter she still calls temporary.

In January it will be 10 years since she lost her home and her business. The same month, Marie’s family in Boston is slated to lose their TPS status — unless courts or Congress step in with a solution.