Brooklyn attorney fears 20,000 Haitians may soon be deported from NYC
Like most attorneys who practice in immigration law, Emmanuel Depas has been busy since President Donald Trump’s inauguration. However, he could find himself even busier if the U.S. ends temporary protected status (TPS) for Haiti.
“I’m preparing for about 20,000 Haitians without status living in Brooklyn and Queens who are going to be needing help real soon,” said Depas, a past president of the Haitian American Lawyers Association of New York (HALANY). “TPS was really good while it lasted. It helped a lot people. It kept families together.”
Last week, as reported by USA Today and other media outlets, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recommended that temporary protection for approximately 50,000 Haitians, who have come to the U.S. since the 2010 earthquake, be dropped. That means that the estimated 20,000 Haitians living in New York City would be forced to return to Haiti.
“These are people who have been here for years and in many cases, they have American-born children,” Depas said. “Those people are going to lose the ability to work lawfully on the books. If their deportation cases were suspended, over time they will be reinstated, and people will lose the ability to travel back and forth between here and Haiti.”
Part of the problem, Depas explained, is that many simply will not be able to return to Haiti in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, which devastated the Southwestern portion of the country last fall.
“There is no way that Haiti could take back 50,000 people right now,” he said. “You are going to put people in a detrimental position — housing is an issue, jobs are definitely going to be an issue. The entire Southwestern portion of the country is wiped out.”
The Obama administration offered TPS to Haitians following the 2010 earthquake. That temporary protection has been extended several times and is set to expire on July 22. According to a USA Today report, James McCament, acting director of USCIS, wrote that conditions in Haiti have improved enough to end TPS. He proposed an extension until January and recommended that program be ended after that.
The decision to ultimately kill TPS will rest in the hands of Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly.
Haitians living here have little recourse. TPS is only a temporary status and does not necessarily lead to a path toward U.S. citizenship. Depas said that even if Haitians living here under TPS have had American-born children, they would have to wait until the child is 21 before they would be able to become citizens themselves and may still have to return to Haiti.
Depas said that HALANY has been conducting regular programs in Brooklyn and throughout the city to try to inform immigrants of their rights. He suggested that Haitians with TPS contact their local representatives and keep all of their documents in one place in case they are needed in an emergency.
“You look back at it — first it was Muslims, then Mexicans, now it’s Haitians,” Depas said. “Who is next?”
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