How low would Donald Trump, Sec. John Kelly, and the Department of Homeland Security go to find justification to deport some 50,000 Haitian refugees with permission to be here back to dire conditions in their home country? This low:
The Trump administration is taking the unusual step of hunting for evidence of crimes committed by Haitian immigrants as it decides whether to allow them to continue participating in a humanitarian program that has shielded tens of thousands from deportation since an earthquake destroyed much of their country.
The inquiries into the community’s criminal history were made in internal U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services emails obtained by The Associated Press. They show the agency’s newly appointed policy chief also wanted to know how many of the roughly 50,000 Haitians enrolled in the Temporary Protected Status program were taking advantage of public benefits, which they are not eligible to receive.
The request for criminal data for an entire community is unorthodox. The law doesn’t specify it should be a consideration for Temporary Protected Status and the government has never said it would use criminal rates in deciding if a country’s citizens should be allowed to stay under this program. Introducing new criteria is likely to cause consternation among law-abiding Haitians who may feel they are being penalized for the wrongdoing of their compatriots.
“It is disheartening to hear that instead of renewing TPS for these hardworking families who are at risk of losing their jobs, Sec. Kelly has decided to go on a witch hunt for criminals,” said one leading advocate for Haitian refugees. Another advocacy group, the National Immigration Law Center, put it more bluntly. “Let's call this what it is: racist.”
Earlier this month, Think Progress reported that Trump’s DHS had been weighing against renewing TPS for Haitian refugees, which would mean deporting up to 50,000 who had fled their homes after a series of deadly natural disasters. Right now, advocates are arguing that conditions in Haiti are no better, particularly after a cholera outbreak that has killed thousands. But DHS has been claiming the opposite, and now appears to be resorting to nasty tactics in an effort to kick out folks who had their status renewed three times by the Obama-era DHS.
Make no mistake about what this really is—Trump’s nativist effort to criminalize the immigrant population and make America white again:
In her first week on the job, [USCIS’ Kathy] Kovarik, the policy chief, asked officials how often Haitians with temporary status have been convicted of “crimes of any kind,” and how many have taken advantage of public benefits. She asked for that information in four separate emails. She also asked how much money Haitians have sent home and how often they’ve traveled back to Haiti. Left unsaid is that frequent travel could suggest improved conditions.
“Please dig for any stories (successful or otherwise) that would show how things are in Haiti - i.e. rebuilding stories, work of nonprofits, how the U.S. is helping certain industries,” Kovarik wrote on April 28. “We should also find any reports of criminal activity by any individual with TPS. Even though it’s only a snapshot and not representative of the entire situation, we need more than ‘Haiti is really poor’ stories.”
“Maria Odom, a former Citizenship and Immigration Services ombudsman who served in the Obama administration, said she was puzzled by the inquiries about criminal activities,” noted the AP. “She said the government already checks criminal histories of applicants and denies protections to those who’ve broken U.S. laws. ‘You should not craft a humanitarian policy based on the few,’ Odom said.”
But unfortunately, that has always been Trump’s plan.