Tuesday, September 25, 2018
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Tempering the Haiti-TPS Sensationalism a Bit

Sony Nicolas


WASHINGTON, D.C. (sentinel.ht) – The impending end of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haiti, after being in effect for eight years, is spawning numerous articles about how heavy and terrible of an action it is by President Donald Trump’s administration. But in many ways, the issue is being sensationalized a bit more than actually due. One point that is worth considering is if TPS would have even been necessary if former U.S. President Barack Obama had not zealously sought to earn the title of “Deporter in Chief” from the immigration rights community.

Bipartisan Policy Center reflects the trend of more total removals, according to ICE data
* There are some nuances in the issue regarding whether Obama “returned” more people, that is, stopped them at the border and returned the home, at a rate higher than any other president, but what is not disputed is that he removed more persons, whether convicted of a crime, charged misdemeanor or nothing at all, than any other president.

Indeed, President Obama received the title from immigration rights activists for having deported more people than any other president in U.S. history. Whether one committed a crime or misdemeanor or nothing at all, if found to be undocumented, they were more likely to be deported under Obama than any other president. With that being the case, it was more apropo under Obama that TPS would be necessary than any other president.

For example, a year before I got my green card, in April of 2003, I was arrested and spent a night in jail for driving with a license that I did not know was suspended. I satisfied paying the ticket but an order had already been sent to the department of motor vehicles to suspend my license. I faced a judge who expunged the arrest from my record. The arresting Florida State Trooper, while booking me, found out that I was undocumented and told me that I should be deported, but he said he would take those steps because it was unlikely I would actually be deported under the Bush administration. But if these events had happened under Obama, it would have more likely been successful.

What this means to say is that under Bush and previous presidents, Haiti being hit by a natural disaster would not have mattered much because deportations were mainly done for criminals not those who committed misdemeanors or were just found to be undocumented. Even while TPS was in effect for Haiti, the U.S. still continued to deport criminals so essentially the same practices were in place with TPS as were in place under previous presidents without TPS.

Immigration and border security are serious issues and at the end of the day, the law is the law. This is not to place blame on Obama for upholding the law, but it is to temper the sensationalism being undertaken to demonize the Trump administration by a press quite salty over the 2016 elections.

But yet there’s another point worthy of note:

Whether Obama or Hillary Clinton, TPS was going to end either way

November 13, 2011: Franco Coby, who grew up in Fort Myers, looks out of the cell at the Haitian jail where he spent seven days without being charged. (Photo by Jacob Kushner.)
The United States has deported more than 250 Haitians since January knowing that one in two will be jailed without charges in facilities so filthy they pose life-threatening health risks.
An investigation by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting found that the Obama administration has not followed its own policy of seeking alternatives to deportation when there are serious medical and humanitarian concerns. One deportee who arrived in April suffered from asthma, hypertension, diabetes, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and head trauma, among other ailments. That same month, the U.S. government deported a mentally ill immigrant whose psychiatric medications were lost by Haitian authorities after his first day in jail.

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is what it is, “temporary”. The Democrats had all the power of the U.S. government in their hands in 2010 when it was issued but made no efforts for immigration reform, let alone a real progressive healthcare plan, or anything else. They essentially acted as Republicans. Adding to that is the fact that all signs and explicit language showed that by mid-2016, Obama and the democrats were already well on their way to letting TPS expire.

TPS had become a bit demeaning after 2 years. It required renewal every 12-18 months. So as the expiration dates would approach, Haitians and the few friends of Haiti that actually existed, would have to mobilize, line-up, march and protest the Obama administration for its renewal. Rights and civil society organizations would pen letters and press releases imploring the administration to renew it. News agencies and their editorial boards would produce pieces, all together, supplicating at the knees for a renewal from the Obama administration. It was a cycle of begging that wasn’t needed after the 2004 coup d’etat or the 2008 hurricane season when the country was arguably just as dangerous, precarious and in shambles.

Yet, for all the begging Haitians had to do, on September 22, 2016, Obama’s Secretary of Homeland Security Jay Johnson made it quite clear with an announcement essentially, if not effectively, ending TPS.

In a December 14, 2016 article entitled “Haitians Plead With Obama for Last-Minute Reprieve as Deportations Skyrocket”, the Miami News Times writes:

This past September 22, just weeks before the election, Homeland Security abruptly ramped up deportation of Haitians for the first time since the island’s massive 2010 earthquake. No longer can new arrivals stay for up to three years on humanitarian parole — instead, they’re being jailed and fast-tracked for a return to the island.

The results have been shocking: In all, 4,681 Haitian migrants are being detained across the United States, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Immigration facilities have been so overrun that hundreds of immigrants have been moved to criminal jails, in violation of international norms.

It deserves noting that the Obama administration had not specifically addressed the TPS issue which still had about 9 months til expiration at the time. But it did use the same language that would be then used by the Trump administration to justify not renewing it. “…conditions had dramatically improved,” said Secretary Johnson.

In conclusion, it would be unfair to leave the impression that the Obama administration was not friendly towards immigrants and immigration. He did sign an executive order called DACA. But what is fair is to say that Trump has not been so much different than Obama and in some respects, with Trump being Republican and with Obama having campaigned and touted as a progressive Democrat, it makes the Obama administration worse for that sense.

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About The Author

Haitian born in Southern Cal, living back in Haiti.