On May the 23rd, the US Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, extended the Temporary Permit Status (TPS) for 58,000 Haitians living and working in the USA by six months.
The humanitarian permit was initially granted to refugees in the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake. The decision to grant the extended stay, and the coalition of voices in the lead up to the decision, has thrown a spotlight on conditions in Haiti.
Despite recent improvements, the situation in Haiti remains dire.
In October last year, Hurricane Matthew unleashed devastation across the southern coast of Haiti, killing 1000 people, destroying crops and livelihoods, and leaving a trail of wreckage.
Today, more than six months after the hurricane, 2.3 million people lack regular access to food.
Unemployment is widespread and malnutrition affects one in every five children.
Cholera, inadvertently introduced by UN peacekeepers from Nepal, has killed more than 9,000 people and infected over 700,000 Haitians. This year alone, 30,000 people are at risk of contracting the deadly disease.
WHEN THE GROUND SHIFTS BENEATH YOU
For decades, cheap labor from Haitian migrants has been an important driving factor in the economic growth of the neighboring Dominican Republic (one of the fastest growing economies in the American continent).
In 2013, the Dominican Republic announced that anyone born from undocumented immigrants after 1929 may not be eligible to Dominican citizenship. The constitutional ruling resulted in an estimated 180,000 people of Haitian descent, most of them born and raised in Dominican Republic, being deported to a country many had never set foot in before.
In a report, Amnesty International described the deportations as reckless, leaving thousands of families vulnerable and in need of aid along the border of the two countries.
Remittances from Haitians abroad are a vital lifeline to many families in Haiti.
They are also an important contribution to economic growth in Haiti, making up 25% of the country’s GDP in 2015, and are critical in reducing Haiti’s dependence on international aid.
The movement in support of a TPS extension brought together Democrats and Republicans, including Senator Marco Rubio and Boston’s mayor, Marty Welsh.
In a letter to John Kelly, the mayor of Boston highlighted how the Haitian population ‘has enriched and strengthened our city in immeasurable ways’ and how deporting Haitians would be socially and economically detrimental for both Haiti and the USA.
In November this year, the DHS will determine whether the TPS should be further extended or if it will be left to expire by January 2018. Given the serious level of humanitarian need in Haiti, the pressure for allowing the refugees to stay in the US is likely to continue.