For nearly twenty years, the presidents of El Salvador and Honduras have successfully lobbied Washington to retain Temporary Protected Status for their hundreds of thousands of compatriots who were in the United States at the time of Hurricane Mitch in 1998. Now, with a trip last summer by President Jovenel Moïse and a follow-up visit of senators just organized by the Haiti Democracy Project, Haiti is also coming to the support of its own.
The project’s Eighth Senatorial Delegation focused on the actors who will impact the actual decisions to be made when forced deportation supposedly begins. The delegation saw the deputy assistant secretary of state Kenneth Merten, who has charge of U.S. relations with Canada, Haiti, and the Caribbean. It saw the Democratic and Republic legislators who are drafting a bipartisan bill to regularize the TPS holders’ status. And it saw Florida senator Bill Nelson, who said last month, “There is no reason to send 60,000 Haitians back to a country that cannot provide for them. This decision today by DHS is unconscionable. And I am strongly urging the administration to reconsider. Ultimately, we need a permanent legislative solution.”
Rep. Frederica Wilson of Florida asked the delegation, “What are they going to do when that day comes? Line up say eight thousand people and say, ‘We’re here to deport you’? How many planes fly to Haiti a day?
A senior member of Congress told the delegation, “Eighteen months from now, it’s going to be completely different. Look what happened in Alabama yesterday. That’s going to happen in Mississippi, Texas, all over the country. People are tired of this intolerance. I know many Republicans who have decided they will not even run. The next Congress is going to be completely different. Democrats will be in the majority. There will be more women, more people to say no to dividing families. You’ll see what happens in eighteen months. You don’t have to worry about Haitians on TPS. They aren’t going anywhere.”
However, another of the delegation’s interlocutors said she thought the decision would be enforced.