WHILE HAITIANS ARE hoping the program will be extended, many are concerned about the $495 renewal fee for TPS and a work permit, said Patrice Lawrence, a national advocacy and policy coordinator at UndocuBlack Network, an advocacy and support group for black undocumented people. In the past, the program was extended for 18 months at a time, but because the DHS set a six-month expiration date on its last renewal, a re-designation would mean applicants would have to cough up that sum for the second time in one year. “Our hope is of course that [the DHS] will extend, so the only conversation we’ll be needing to have with folks is, do you have enough money to extend,” Lawrence told The Intercept.
Just last week, the DHS announced an 18-month extension of TPS for South Sudanese nationals but a termination of the program for Sudan, sending mixed signals about the future of the program as a whole. As of December 2016, there were 49 TPS beneficiaries from South Sudan and 1,039 from Sudan, according to USCIS. By law, the DHS is required to review a TPS designation at least 60 days before it expires and publish a decision on a “timely basis.” The decision on Sudan came two weeks after its September 3 due date, which created chaos and caused anxiety among immigrant groups, Lawrence told The Intercept.
“The decision to terminate TPS for Sudan based on a determination that conditions in Sudan no longer support its TPS designation is reprehensible and disconnected from the reality on the ground,” said Opal Tometi, executive director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration and co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, in a statement. “While TPS is far from a permanent solution to the vast challenges facing Black immigrants from Sudan, it offers an important refuge from the ongoing conflict, drought, famine, and food insecurity in the nation.”
Jeanne Atkinson, executive director of CLINIC, an immigration organization involved in training and advocacy, described the decision as “cruel and inhumane,” adding that dangerous conditions in Sudan warrant an extension. “There is absolutely no need to send people who are living peacefully, raising their children, and contributing to the American economy and society back to a country where their lives could immediately be put at risk,” Atkinson said in a statement.
The extension for South Sudan could mean one of two things for Haiti, said Marleine Bastien, executive director of Haitian Women of Miami, a group that offers community services to South Florida’s large Haitian population and has been leading the drive to renew TPS for Haitians and Central Americans. Either the Trump administration realized the “absurdity” of its July decision to renew the program for Haitians for only six months, or the DHS is continuing “the historic discrimination” against Haitians, she told The Intercept. (In the early 1990s, the United States had a policy of returning Haitian refugees to the island nation, and in the 1970s, thousands of Haitian asylum-seekers had their work permits illegally revoked.)
“It’s going to be quasi-impossible to ask people to deport themselves after living in the country for so long and having given the contributions they’ve made,” Bastien said. “I prefer to believe that maybe [the administration]realized their mistake and that they are fixing it.”
Ponthieux, a registered nurse who works at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, is hoping to obtain an employment-based visa that will allow his family to stay in the United States. He said TPS recipients are “in the same boat” as immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as minors who were shielded from deportation under Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — which the Trump administration is now winding down.
“If we have the help of congressmen, we can change the law and work to get permanent status for TPS recipients and Dreamers —that would be the best thing to do,” Ponthieux said, adding that the Trump administration is “not easy.”
Like DACA participants, many TPS recipients may soon be left with an impossible choice: return to an unstable country – which, in many cases, has not been home for decades – or stay put and live in the shadows. Some Haitians, fearing deportation, have journeyed to Canada to seek asylum.
“When you’re faced with a crisis of such magnitude, you try to grab any lifeline,” Bastien said. “If you’re in a river and you’re drowning, any branch you will grasp.”