As families around America prepare their Thanksgiving meals, an estimated 50,000 Haitians living in the United States face a much more significant problem than what kind of pie to prepare.
Nov. 23 marks the deadline for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to make a decision on whether or not it will renew Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for individuals from Haiti, a verdict that will not only affect the 5,200 Haitians in New York who are under the provision, but their 1,900 U.S.-born children as well.
TPS is granted to foreign nationals living in the United States if conditions in their country, such as ongoing armed conflict or environmental disasters, prevent them from returning safely. TPS recipients—who currently come from 10 countries (though provisions for several, including Sudan, Sierra Leone and Nicaragua, were not renewed this year)—are legally able to work, buy homes, attend schools and build lives in the U.S.
TPS opens a door of opportunity for recipients, who come from countries that face extreme hardship, crime and poverty. And not only does the provision help the recipients, but it’s advantageous to the economy as well, with the Center for American Progress estimating that the loss of TPS holders from El Salvador, Honduras and Haiti would result in a $1.5 billion loss to the state GDP annually.
Maryann Sinclair Slutsky, executive director of Long Island Wins, a nonprofit communications organization that focuses on immigration issues on Long Island, said sending TPS holders back to their native countries would have a devastating effect on the local economy.
“Businesses are going to suffer and lose employees. They have real jobs, they pay taxes. There’s going to be a big loss in tax revenue and less people putting money back into the economy,” said Slutsky, adding that the effect will be compounded with the recent recension of DACA. “The consequences of this doesn’t just affect TPS holders, it affects all of Long Island.”
According to the Center for American Progress, 3,700 workers in New York are Haitian TPS holders, with 47.7 percent of them in the health care and social assistance field. Not renewing TPS for these Haitian recipients would result in a $262.9 million loss in the state GDP; while ending it for the 4,600 Hondurans and 16,200 Salvadorans recipients would cause a $271.3 million and $958.3 million loss from state GDP, respectively. TPS for Salvadorans runs through March, 9, 2018, and the status for Hondurans was recently extended through July 2018.
Not only would the loss of TPS holders have an affect on the state, but would have ripple effects on the global economy as well, said Slutsky.
“To strip these people of their status is going to destabilize our country and further destabilize countries in the northern triangle [Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador]. They’re unstable to begin with and to send people back there is going to put enormous strain on those countries,” said Slutsky. “A lot of these TPS holders send money back to their country so their families can survive. Without that money, they won’t be able to and might have to resort to crime. This is a lose-lose.”
Center for American Progress notes that Haitian TPS holders in New York have lived in the United States an average of 20 years. A non-renewal of their TPS status means quitting their jobs, packing up their families and starting over in a country they may no longer have ties to. And not only that, but the country may not be prepared to receive them, noted Rev. Duval Denis, pastor of Eben-Ezer Haitian Baptist Church of Westbury.
“With the earthquake and hurricanes, when these people go back they will suffer. The government is not able to take care of these people,” said Denis, who goes to Haiti on service trips twice a year. “If they take all these people back, it will be a mess for the government. They can’t support all these people.”
If recipients lose their TPS status, many are expected to defy orders to leave, opting to stay in the country illegally rather than return to a nation which holds nothing but hardship for them.
But as its name implies, TPS is not a permanent solution. Members of Congress are trying to fix that with the ASPIRE Act, which would create a path to permanent residency for TPS recipients who can prove they would face extreme hardship upon returning to their country, as well as would create protected status for individuals who have been in the U.S. under the program for at least five years. Instead of waiting for status renewal every 18 months, the bill makes a provision for current TPS recipients to stay in the U.S. for a renewable six-year period, and potential permanent residency if they can prove extreme hardship.
Congresswoman Kathleen Rice said she’s pressed DHS to extend TPS for Honduran, Salvadoran and Haitian immigrants and that while she’s still gathering information on it, she’s likely to support the ASPIRE Act.
“There are many Honduran, Salvadoran and Haitian immigrants in our district…They’ve become members of our communities, made homes and started families here, and it would be a mistake to force them to leave while their native countries continue to recover from devastating natural disasters,” said Rice. “I believe that immigrants who receive TPS deserve an opportunity to gain legal permanent resident status and ultimately earn citizenship, and I’ll keep working to pass legislation that gets it done.”
Meanwhile, Denis and the TPS recipients in his congregation, wait to hear the verdict.
“If they cancel it, the Haitian community will be devastated,” said Denis. “We are very concerned. We’re just waiting and praying.”