The United States shouldn’t continue to deport Haitians to their devastated island. Considering Haiti’s recent disastrous floods and continuing street violence, we should grant Haitians already here Temporary Protected Status.
If they came from any other country but Haiti, the U.S. government would have given Haitians TPS already. It did so for Hondurans and Nicaraguans after Hurricane Mitch, and for Salvadorans and Guatemalans when there was civil unrest in their countries. Haiti now suffers both natural and man-made disasters.
No chance for asylum
The U.S. government also should routinely screen interdicted Haitians to avoid returning potential asylum seekers into the arms of their persecutors. That’s not being done now. Instead we have tightened the floating wall of Coast Guard cutters that interdict and summarily repatriate Haitian boat people. More than 2,000 Haitians have been returned this year amid the violence surrounding Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s departure. The Coast Guard at best applies the ”shout test” — a Haitian screaming loudly in fear of persecution may get a shipboard interview, which offers slim to no chance for asylum.
Conditions in Haiti warrant a TPS grant for Haitians without legal status but who already are here. These Haitians would be able to work legally, send remittances home and would have to return once conditions improved. Haitians who arrived afterward would not qualify for such status.
By statute, TPS may be offered in cases where a natural disaster results in ”a substantial but temporary disruption of living conditions” or when ”there is an ongoing armed conflict . . . and, due to that conflict, return of nationals of that state would pose a serious threat to personal safety.” Both criteria apply here.
Recent floods and mudslides have killed more than 1,000 people and left an estimated 15,000 homeless in Haiti. Survivors have had to rely on international-aid efforts because Haiti’s provisional government has been unable to organize any significant relief.
Security remains equally grim. A May 25 State Department travel warning says, ”The security situation in Haiti remains unpredictable and potentially dangerous.” It notes “the absence of an effective police force in many parts of Haiti and the potential for looting, roadblocks set by armed gangs and violent crime.”
Deportees face questionable treatment, too. Haitians deported in recent weeks, the majority without criminal records, have been jailed upon their return, according to the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center. One deportee told FIAC that her family was forced to pay $500 for her release.
Haiti’s fragile government clearly is unable to provide security or disaster aid. International forces aren’t sufficiently in place to guarantee safety, either. The United States shouldn’t return Haitians to face disastrous conditions or persecution in Haiti.