In the days, weeks and even months after a natural disaster, countries like the United States are often called upon to assist. This was the case in 2010 when Haiti was hit by a massive earthquake. To support relief efforts, the Obama White House allowed 60,000 Haitians to come to America under temporary special protections.
Under a special permit program, those escaping from the earthquake damaged area were able to live and work in the United States. The original program was set to last 18 months and has been renewed over and over. It is now almost eight years after the earthquake and the situation in Haiti does not seem to be dire enough to keep renewing the program. President Trump has made efforts to end the program after one final extension.
The program was never meant to be a lifetime of residency in the country, but instead a short-term solution to extreme and harsh conditions in Haiti. The Department of Homeland Security recently updated the status of the island and shared that number of people displaced by the earthquake has decreased by 97%. Conditions have improved enough to warrant the end of the special permit program.
As recently as a few months ago, the program again came upon the deadline to end it. At the time the administration made a choice to only extended it for a few months to take time to research the current conditions. It was recently determined that the program is no longer needed and they made the final extension to allow people to prepare to go back to Haiti.
While an 18 month grace period seems fair to those who are using the “Temporary Protected Status” program, many are fighting the end of the program. One of the people speaking out to many press outlets is a 49-year-old Haitian nurse named Rony Ponthieux.
Pontheiux is speaking out against being forced to go back to Haiti with her family. She has been in the United States since 1999 but is currently using the 2010 special protection to stay legally. It is not clear how this would have applied in her case since she was already living in the country when the earthquake hit.
It is clear that this family uses the protected status to their advantage. It is what keeps the family in the country and as she stated:
“This isn’t over, this is time we get to fight for renewal, not to pack our bags. We need to push Washington to provide a legal status for us with TPS. This is anti-immigrant policy. “
Ponthieux has a family in the country and does not want to have to leave them behind. Her case raises an interesting question about the number of illegals from Haiti that were here before the earthquake but used the natural disaster as a way to gain a protected status. Someone who had lived illegally in the United States for ten years before the quake does not seem to fit into the group one might expect to be covered by the program.
While the Ponthieux family makes for a great sound bite for the news, they may not be the best example as to why the program needs to stay around. The family was already living in Miami and just used the earthquake as a way to do so legally. They were not using the program as intended, and serve as an example of the way programs like this may be abused.
With abuses like this within the program, it is also useful to make a note of the changes made within the country via emergency aid after the earthquake. The United Nations shortly after the quake started a monumental mission with 10,000 troops deployed. They have now scaled back their operation due to improvements in the area. They currently are only supporting the country with 1,300 police and 350 civilians to help with governmental reform. The economy of the island does need assistance, but this was not tied to the earthquake.
This is not the first program that the current administration has cleaned up from the Obama White House. There were also temporary protections put in place years ago for those from Sudan an Nicaragua. Both of these programs were ended this year. Trump is also scheduled to address a similar issue with special protections for those here from Honduras. The Honduras program may impact up to 86,000 people.