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Vol. 81/No. 46      December 11, 2017

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US gov’t moves to expel immigrants from Haiti, Central America

MIAMI — In 18 months some 59,000 Haitians will lose their Temporary Protected Status, which allows them to live and work in the United States, Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Elaine Duke announced Nov. 20. This comes two weeks after a similar decision to end the program for some 5,300 Nicaraguans.

The status of 86,000 Hondurans remains undecided, but they could also face the threat of deportation if their protected status is withdrawn. Over 260,000 refugees from El Salvador are facing a deadline of March. A small number of immigrants from Sudan and South Sudan are also in limbo.

The Obama administration extended protected status to immigrants from Haiti after an earthquake there in 2010 killed more than 300,000 people and left 1.5 million homeless. It was renewed three times since, as the Haitian people faced a cholera outbreak that killed 9,000 and sickened more than 800,000, and was hit by Hurricane Matthew in 2016, killing over 1,000 people and devastating much of the country.

Duke, who was appointed by President Donald Trump, claimed the situation in Haiti has improved and Haitians living in the U.S. can return to their homeland. Many in the Haitian community in South Florida dispute that. Thousands have established families and lives here and would return to a country they know little about.

“There’s no way that Haiti is ready to receive 60,000 of us,” Joseph Audain told the Militant. He manages a small assisted-living facility and has lived and worked here for 30 years. “Haiti had two major hurricanes after the earthquake in 2010, there’s no recovery from anything.

“There’s not one Haitian who won’t be affected by this decision if it goes through,” he said, because “we don’t just take, we give.” Many Haitians in Florida send substantial amounts of remittances to family members in Haiti.

Without this — one of the single largest sources of income in the impoverished country — greater hardships will come down on working people there.

Protests against ending Temporary Protected Status have been building over several months. A demonstration in front of the Citizenship and Immigration Services office here May 13 drew hundreds to protest the threat of deportations if TPS is not renewed.

In response to Duke’s Nov. 20 announcement, hundreds gathered the following day to protest near Mar-a-Lago, President Trump’s private beach club, in Palm Beach. Trump was scheduled to spend Thanksgiving there. The protest included members of the UNITE HERE union from around the state, which organizes hospitality workers, many of whom are Haitian; Service Employees International Union; and the Guatemalan-Maya Center.

“What do we want? Residence! When do we want it? Now!” marchers chanted.

Many U.S. Congress members from south Florida — both Democrats and Republicans — have spoken against the decision to revoke the protected status. Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo and others have submitted a bill called Extending Status Protection for Eligible Refugees with Established Residence, or Esperer, French for “hope,” that would allow people admitted under TPS to apply for permanent residence.

At the time of a May decision extending TPS for Haitians for only six months, Cynthia Jaquith, then Socialist Workers Party candidate for mayor of Miami, issued a statement protesting the attack on TPS.

“We stand in solidarity with Haitians in the United States who face the threat of deportation when the TPS extension expires,” Jaquith said. “The conditions in Haiti today are important, but not our starting point. We in the Socialist Workers Party call for amnesty for all immigrants in the U.S. — that everyone here, regardless of the circumstances under which they came, should be able to live and work without fear of deportation, criminal prosecution or denial of social services.

“The bosses use immigration status as a wedge to heighten divisions among working people here,” she added. “That’s why all unions should denounce the threat to end TPS. This is what is needed to unite the working class in a common fight against the bosses.”  
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