Village on Fire – Haitian Refugees

The Haitian community in South Florida numbers approximately 300,000, and it is on fire. The federal government’s handling of the Haitian refugees that came to the U.S. via the Temporary Protected Status program (TPS), has angered most in the South Florida community with its latest order to end the program and deport all the participants.

As is so often the case, the U.S. federal government’s actions are an example of inhumane treatment. The current victims are the Haitian refugees who immigrated to this country as a result of the 2010 earthquake that ravaged their country. About 60,000 Haitians came to the U.S. for relief in 2010, with most settling in South Florida or New York. As is always the case in these circumstances, many of the 60,000 were young children. Some of these children have now spent a majority of their life here in the U.S. Many have little or no memory of any other home. Some have graduated from U.S. high schools and have now gone on to college or found jobs here. The adult refugees, after being here for seven years, are now deeply enmeshed in their new communities. They work, earn wages, buy from local and national businesses, and pay taxes.

Additionally, an estimated 27,000 children have been born to these Haitian refugees. For this White House to simply pull the plug on all these people – even though the administration has always been open about being very much anti-immigration – was a shockingly cruel order.

Who does ending this policy benefit? The Trump administration is certainly doing Haitians on TPS no favors. But is there an unseen factor benefitting someone else? It appears that there is not. The sole intent of this order is to pander to a certain segment of the President’s fan base, to appear to be “tough on immigration.” However, all the Haitians here under TPS are here legally, working or studying, and ending the program will only result in turning many documented immigrants into undocumented ones. They would have until 2019 to leave or apply for residency through an alternative program. Therefore, the decision to end TPS only worsens the problem the Trump administration pledged to remedy.

Condemning refugees to return to a country which was an economic basket case before the earthquake, and which has not yet completely recovered from it, is itself a morally egregious act. But in addition to this, removing TPS also lacks economic sensibility. Unemployment is at an historic low and many of those in the U.S. on TPS are educated and working. This choice greatly inconveniences both workers and employers for no perceivable gain.

The temporary of TPS for these Haitians is inherently flawed, because these are refugees fleeing disaster. When they come here, they don’t come for work and education, but rather for new homes and new lives.

In fairness, the Trump administration is no more at fault – perhaps even less so – than the Obama administration, which oversaw the creation of the program and later extended it by six months, so that it would expire under the Trump administration. Perhaps Secretary of State John Kerry’s extension was honestly intended to aid the refugees facing a loss of their TPS. But I don’t believe it. More likely, it was a bomb set to trouble the Trump administration, which early on had to extend TPS by an additional 18 months. Hence, partisan thinking by the Obama administration may have prevented them from finding a permanent solution. Additionally, this entire situation illustrates one of the many problems with ruling by executive order: changes in administration can result in arbitrary policy changes and partisanship rather than solutions.

America is a land of immigrants, and although the word temporary is in the title of the program, the circumstances under which these immigrants came here do not matter. What does matter is that our country was established by and grew from the contributions of generations of immigrants. If these particular immigrants have proven to be good additions, then they should be welcome – and given the opportunity to stay.

by Michael Smith – Secretary of the Libertarian Party of Broward County (pictured left)

and Caleb M. Rodrigues  (pictured right)