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The Associated Press reports that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a division of DHS, is gathering negative information on Haitians in the U.S., presumably to justify a controversial decision expected soon to reject Haitian TPS renewal — which would end the program that currently protects 50,000 Haitians in the US and make it easier to deport them. AP reports:
The Trump administration has begun hunting for evidence of crimes committed by Haitian immigrants as it decides whether to allow them to continue participating in a humanitarian program that has shielded tens of thousands from deportation since a devastating earthquake.
The inquiries into any criminal histories of Haitian immigrants were made in internal U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services emails obtained by The Associated Press. They show the agency’s policy chief also wanted to know how many of the roughly 50,000 Haitians enrolled in the Temporary Protected Status program were taking advantage of public benefits, which they are not eligible to receive.
The emails don’t make clear if Haitians’ misdeeds will be used to determine whether they can remain in the United States. The program is intended to help people from places beset by war or disasters and, normally, the decision to extend it depends on whether conditions in the immigrants’ home country have improved. But emails suggest Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, who will make the decision, is looking at other criteria.
‘I do want to alert you … the secretary is going to be sending a request to us to be more responsive,’ Kathy Nuebel Kovarik, the USCIS head of policy and strategy, wrote on April 27. Addressing the inability of agency employees to gather the requested information about wrongdoing, she said: ‘I know some of it is not captured, but we’ll have to figure out a way to squeeze more data out of our systems.’
This story is on the heels of a USA Today piece published last month, entitled, “Trump immigration agency wants to kick 50,000 Haitians out of the USA.” The piece detailed how the Trump Administration was seeking to end Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitians in the U.S.:
James McCament, acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, concluded in a letter last week that conditions in Haiti have improved enough to end “temporary protected status” for Haitians, according to a copy of the letter obtained by USA TODAY.
The Obama administration first offered temporary protection to Haitians following the devastating 2010 earthquake. The protection has been extended several times, the latest set to expire July 22. McCament proposed an extension to January to allow for a ‘period of orderly transition’ but said the program should not be extended beyond then.
This is what the New York Times editorial board had to say about that story:
Haiti has made only a fitful recovery from the quake, which all but destroyed the national government and left hundreds of thousands homeless, and ensuing disasters have deepened the country’s misery. Hurricane Matthew in October 2016 ravaged Haiti’s southwest peninsula, killing more than a thousand people and laying waste to villages and farmland. A cholera epidemic that erupted after the earthquake has not been subdued.
These acute crises, laid atop chronic poverty and political turmoil, make Haiti a fragile place. The sudden return of tens of thousands of expatriates would be yet another damaging blow. Better those Haitians remain in the United States, where they can be safe and work and send money home, and not further burden their traumatized homeland.
And we just learned that a DHS spokesperson is trying to walk back the leaked emails. A Politico piece reports:
Homeland Security Department spokesperson David Lapan today tamped down the idea that data on criminality could be used to decide whether to renew humanitarian protections for Haitians in the U.S.
‘The secretary’s decision on TPS for Haiti will hinge upon the conditions in that country,’ Lapan said today in response to a question about the data gathering. ‘Separate and distinct from that, the secretary has asked questions of his staff about how the program operates.’
Here’s our take. According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice Education Fund:
This is what happens when you staff the DHS with immigration hardliners and extremists, then put a retired general to front for the operation in an attempt to make it seem normal. Let’s not mince words: DHS is looking for ways to discontinue TPS for Haitians and DHS Secretary Kelly has instructed his staff to come up with anecdotal evidence of abuse to justify the decision. General Kelly was supposed to be an honest broker and a voice of reason that maybe, possibly, would be strong enough and sane enough to override the worst nativist impulses of the Trump Administration. Instead, he’s revealed himself to be either a pitchman for the real decision-makers, a hardliner himself, or perhaps both. This leak is yet another example of DHS letting ideology – and not facts – drive the policy-making process. Expelling 50,000 Haitians back to a chaotic situation is a potentially calamitous decision. But justifying it by anecdote and innuendo is outrageous and unconscionable.