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US ending its temporary permits for Haiti refugees

China Daily | Updated: 2017-11-23 07:42

Trump blasted over decision to repatriate nearly 59,000 people


Haitian immigrants and supporters rally to reject the decision to terminate Temporary Protected Status for Haitians, in New York on Tuesday.Eduardo Munoz/reuters

WASHINGTON - US President Donald Trump faced a backlash on Tuesday over his tough immigration policies after announcing that 59,000 Haitians who took refuge in the United States following the 2010 earthquake must return home.

Lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle blasted the decision to repatriate the Haitians within 18 months, removing the Temporary Protected Status they received after the magnitude 7.0 tremor, which killed 300,000 people and destroyed much of Haiti's capital Port-au-Prince.

The administration of former president Barack Obama extended the program several times, finding that conditions in Haiti were too dire to send beneficiaries home.

Hundreds of protesters rallied near Trump's Mar-a-Lago retreat in West Palm Beach, Florida - where the president was spending the Thanksgiving holiday - to voice their discontent over the move.

"We are fighting and we are going to continue to fight for permanent residency," said 38-year-old Myrtha Abraham, a Haitian hotel worker with TPS and a 7-year-old daughter who is a US citizen.

"We have family, we have children, we have houses, we have jobs here."

For Wendi Walsh of Unite Here, a labor group helping organize the demonstration in Florida, "the announcement to end TPS is mean-spirited two days before Thanksgiving".

'Not ready'

Haitians and their supporters also demonstrated in New York, warning that the decision would lead to breaking up families. Thousands of children have been born in the US to people under TPS protections.

In Port-au-Prince, officials said they were grateful for the 18-month grace period, but residents voiced concern about the long-term repercussions.

"We knew this program was only temporary," said Haiti's Ambassador to the US, Paul Altidor.

The US decision announced on Monday by the Department of Homeland Security was expected. But critics said Haiti is not prepared for an influx of returnees.

"Haiti is not ready," said Marleine Bastien, director of Haitian Women of Miami.

"It still has people displaced from the earthquake and from Hurricane Matthew. Hurricanes Irma and Maria caused even more damage, the cholera epidemic left 1.2 million people contaminated, there is no access to clean water infrastructure yet," she said.

"You look at the conditions on the ground, and Haiti is a textbook on TPS continuation."

In Canada, officials were girding for a potential surge of Haitians seeking asylum there. Many have already crossed the border from the US in recent months since the Trump administration signaled its intent to end TPS.

"We've been planning for every conceivable scenario," Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said.

Lawmakers from both parties representing districts with large Haitian communities - particularly in Florida and New York - lashed out against the decision.

"There is no reason to send 60,000 Haitians back to a country that cannot provide for them. This decision today by DHS is unconscionable," said Democratic Senator Bill Nelson, who represents Florida.

Marie Parfait, a 58-year-old woman from Port-au-Prince who lives in Miami and works as a dishwasher, said: "Nothing in Haiti. Nobody there for me. If Mr Trump doesn't give me residency, I'm lost. Please, President Trump, give me residency because I like this country, I like America. ... I'm not going anywhere."

Afp - Reuters - Xinhua - Ap


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