Thousand of Haitians who were displaced after a devastating 2010 earthquake have been living in the United States under a sensible and compassionate program called Temporary Protection Status. The TPS program is a valuable humanitarian outreach, designed to help people from countries torn by civil war or natural disasters who need a place to go. There now are some 58,000 Haitians in the United States under TPS, and they work and pay taxes but do not get assistance such as food stamps or public housing.
But now the Trump administration says it’s time for the Haitians to go home, that their country can accept them now. That’s going to be a severe strain on families who have been in the United States and have been approved for TPS through renewals of their rights under the plan. In fact, the Obama administration, out of compassion, renewed the TPS coverage for Haitians several times, understanding that their country still suffers from the aftermath of the earthquake and a cholera epidemic.
Even if there were some tangible reason to talk about ending TPS for the Haitians, and there does not appear to be, the Trump administration would not have credibility in leading such a discussion. The president campaigned for his office on a decidedly anti-immigration platform, talking about “America First” even in his inauguration speech and making it clear he wants U.S. borders shut tight. So it’s not a surprise that his administration is cracking down on people who cannot defend themselves.
Said Heather Scavone, director of the Humanitarian Immigration Law Clinic at the Elon University School of Law, “This administration’s policy decision cannot be separated from the extremely anti-immigrant rhetoric that they have promoted since before the inauguration. I think that what we’re seeing is, across the board, whenever the president is able to restrict immigration without having to go to Congress to legislate something, he’s doing that.”
Scavone isn’t alone in seeing a disturbing pattern in policy here, from the promise to cut the number of refugees overall to the end of the DACA program – Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – that allowed some children brought into the country without their consent, when they were young, to stay for a while. Trump’s just making good on what he promised his right-wing base out on the campaign stump, where he so enjoyed the cheers when he blasted immigrants of all backgrounds.
Now, Americans are seeing the consequences of that rhetoric being put into action, action that will in the long term increasingly isolate America relative to the rest of the world. And the United States is putting its reputation as a welcoming place that believes in humanitarian policies to one driven by the xenophobia of the current occupant of the White House.