It is doubtful that Immigration and Customs Enforcement will make deporting Haitians a priority. ICE and the immigration courts are already overwhelmed.
Q: I am here lawfully with Haitian Temporary Protected Status. I read that the Department of Homeland Security will end the program Jan. 18. If that happens, will they try to deport us Haitians all at once?
John Eugene, Florida
A: I remain optimistic that DHS will extend TPS for Haitians beyond Jan. 19. If I’m wrong, I doubt that Immigration and Customs Enforcement will make deporting Haitians a priority. ICE and the immigration courts are already overwhelmed. Many Haitians will have defenses to deportation. When they assert their claims, the courts will be clogged further.
DHS granted about 60,000 Haitians TPS after a devastating earthquake hit Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010. As I wrote in May when I called on President Trump to extend Haitian TPS, Haiti has yet to recover from the Earthquake. And, it has suffered from a disastrous hurricane and cholera outbreak.
Political factors favor another Haitian TPS extension. Florida Gov. Rick Scott and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, both Republicans, support an extension. The Congressional Black Caucus has pushed hard for an extension as well. Though the caucus is almost entirely Democratic, TPS is one of the few programs that benefit primarily black immigrants. President Trump may be reluctant to end it. Why look racist, mean and heartless by deporting such a small group of immigrants?
As for mass deportations, many Haitians with TPS have been here 10 years or more and have U.S. citizen children, allowing them to apply to an immigration judge for a Cancellation of Removal green card. Those cases are hard to win. The applicant must prove exceptional and extremely unusual hardship to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, parent, child or spouse should the person be deported.
Still, Haitians with the qualifying relatives will certainly apply, stretching out their deportation for years. Others will apply for asylum, another time-consuming process. Haiti remains politically unstable, and many Haitians have legitimate asylum claims.
Trump claims he wants to focus deportation efforts on criminals. Ending Haitian TPS would be further evidence that it is all immigrants that are his target.
Allan Wernick is an attorney and director of the City University of New York’s Citizenship Now! project. Send questions and comments to Allan Wernick, New York Daily News, 7th Fl., 4 New York Plaza, New York, NY 10004, or email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @awernick.