Last year, the Trump administration claimed it was ending Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for nearly 60,000 Haitians because improved conditions in Haiti no longer merited the protections. But according to explosive documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Trump officials knew that conditions in Haiti were still dire, and that they warranted an extension of work permits and deportation protections for the tens of thousands of Haitians who have called the U.S. their home. Trump officials contradicted their own report and ended them anyway:
While many of the documents are redacted, the release includes a report prepared by staff about the conditions in Haiti, which was included as part of a recommendation by the director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Director L. Francis Cissna wrote in several instances that conditions in Haiti have improved enough from the 2010 earthquake to lift TPS. But the attached report in many cases paints a much more dire picture than the data points Cissna highlighted. Both documents were sent to then-acting Secretary Elaine Duke and resulted in her decision to end the program with an 18-month wind-down period.
In one example, the staff report stated: "Many of the conditions prompting the original January 2010 TPS designation persist, and the country remains vulnerable to external shocks and internal fragility."
“Haiti has also experienced various setbacks that have impeded its recovery,” the report said, “including a cholera epidemic and the impact of Hurricane Matthew,” which has “severely worsened the pre-existing humanitarian situation.” Yet the official statement announcing the end of TPS paints a rosier picture. “Since the 2010 earthquake,” said Duke, “the number of displaced people in Haiti has decreased by 97%. Significant steps have been taken to improve the stability and quality of life for Haitian citizens, and Haiti is able to safely receive traditional levels of returned citizens.”
“DHS’ decision to terminate TPS for Haiti is manifestly contrary to the evidence reflected in this report,” said Sejal Zota, legal director for the National Immigration Protect of the National Lawyers Guild, which helped gain access to the records through its lawsuit. According to immigrant rights leader Frank Sharry, “this report is further proof of the Administration’s ruthless pursuit of its ultimate goal: to kick out and keep out people of color—regardless of their connections to our shared country or of their desperate need.”
The lawsuit is expected to produce more documented evidence which could continue to prove that the Trump’s decision to end TPS was one based out of racism, clear and simple. “DHS Secretary [Kirsten] Nielsen has a lot of explaining to do,” Sharry continued. “Unfortunately, she seems so determined to kiss the ring of the Dear Leader in the White House, we won’t hold our breath. Instead, Congress should step up and step in to make sure that common sense and common decency prevail.”