Opinion: Trump Administration policies for DACA and Haitian refugees under TPS based on cruelty, not common sense and humanity
You spent much of your life with an uncertain situation; you have work and residency papers, but they’re temporary. But after a while, you’re confident that your stay will be permanent. Your status has been renewed again and again, and it’s long passed the point anyone would expect you to keep your life U.S. citizens. After so much time has passed, there’s no way the U.S. government would strip you of your legal status.
If you guessed that I’m referring to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, or “Dreamers”, you’re right. But I’m also referring to the Haitian population that came here under Temporary Protect Status (TPS) seven years ago in response to the devastating earthquake that killed over 300,000 people. During those years, the U.S. government under the Obama administration had quietly renewed the status without issue. However, the Trump administration recently declined to renew TPS for these Haitian refugees, giving them until Jan. 22, 2018 to return back to Haiti.
From a humanitarian and fairness standpoint, it’s hard to justify sending DACA and TPS recipients back to their countries of origin. Dreamers have been here their entire lives; many have scant memories of the home they left as children. Many cannot speak the language of these countries well enough to succeed professionally. As for the Haitian refugees under TPS, despite claims from the Trump administration that conditions have improved since the earthquake, the country is still struggling to provide basic services to its people.
Buffalonians protesting at Niagara Square, calling people to stand united (Photo Rubens M.)
For many families, going back to Haiti with their U.S. born children is not an option, and leaving them behind is a difficult decision to make. Faced with these tough choices, tens of thousands of Haitians have illegally crossed into Canada, mostly Quebec, for a chance to stay together with their families. Families with DACA recipients are facing similar, tough choices, especially those that missed the brief deadline for renewal.
When writing about the Trump Administration, it’s a little easy to claim racism as the motive for some of its policy decisions regarding immigration. As hard as it can be, we still have to give the initial benefit of a doubt that, despite data indicating the contrary, some of these policies are in response to fears of crime and lost jobs due to immigration. But it’s hard to place the plight of Haitian TPS and DACA recipients into this context.
DACA imposes strict rules, such as educational requirements, comprehensive background checks, and, despite paying taxes, are not allowed to receive government assistance. The vast majority of TPS recipients (80%), according to a Center for Migration Studies report, are employed are not dependent on government assistant. When compared to the American population as a whole, they’re hardly a burden.
We should also note that no public outcry or change in political climate triggered the end of DACA and TPS. According a POLITICO/Morning Consult poll conducted last month, 73 percent support DACA, if not a pathway to citizenship. And, as mentioned, despite Trump administration claims the situation in Haiti has improved, the recent hurricanes and civil strife have aggravated the already difficult living situation there, prompting the Haitian government on Oct. 9 to request that the U.S. grant an 18-month extension to the TPS. If the justification for allowing Haitian refugees to remain in the US was due to deplorable situations on the ground, it stills stands.
There’s an undeniable sense of callousness in all this. The granting of a six-month extension back in May stands as a tacit admission by the administration of the difficult living situation in Haiti, but despite this, still have yet to budge on extending the TPS. For the meantime, its inaction suggests that it intends to pass the buck of doing the right thing to Canada. Our northern neighbor has to contend with a further straining of its already generous asylum program as well as ignoring its own laws in order to handle the influx of Haitian refugees crossing illegally over its border.
When announcing the end of DACA, the Trump administration forced thousands of DACA recipients, even those living in hurricane-affected areas, to scramble to get their renewal forms in order, which meant working with lawyers on reams of paperwork, taking days off of work, and digging up hard-to-find documents. Most (104,000) applicants managed to apply on time. But this was out of 154,000 total eligible, leaving those that missed the deadline to face deportation in the coming months.
Even for those who did renew, it only allows for an extension of just two years. Any hopes of an extension beyond that, much less a path to citizenship or permanent residency, appeared dashed in a tremendous display of cruelty by the Trump administration. Last month, it seemed that the Trump Administration had struck out a deal with the Democrats figure out a deal for DACA without demanding a wall along the U.S. southern border in exchange. However, to horror of Dreamers and many others, this deal was scrapped without warning; in its place, were a list of demands, drafted by Stephen Miller, a Trump Administration official with avowed white supremacist leanings. The price to keep DACA includes, you guessed it, building a border wall.
Along with tasking Miller to draft this new deal, using Dreamers as a bargaining chip for a southern wall, and the about-face on a tentative deal just signals it never had a real intention to negotiate or at least wants to extract a heavy price to prevent a manufactured crisis. In any ‘normal’ administration, Democratic or Republican, extending DACA and TPS would still be controversial topic although compromise would likely prevail. But now, under Trump, it seems to be hyper-focused on causing the most unnecessary suffering possible for those under the refugee and immigration system.