Thousands of Haitian immigrants are fleeing from the United States to Canada, fearing deportation back to Haiti as their future uncertain under the Trump administration.
Approximately 58,000 Haitian with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) reside in the United States. TPS was enacted after a massive earthquake struck their country in 2010 and allows TPS recipients to legally work and live in the United States without fear of deportation.
In May, the Department of Homeland Security suggested that the program will end in January and recommended that TPS recipients make travel arrangement to go back to Haiti before the deadline.
“The Department of Homeland Security urges Haitian TPS recipients who do not have another immigration status to use the time before Jan. 22, 2018 to prepare for and arrange their departure from the United States,” the press release said.
Tammy Lin, an immigration attorney based in San Diego, California, says that most of her clients on TPS are scared.
“Many of the clients I work with are trying to figure out what to do next,” she said, “Its hard for my clients because many of them have built their lives over again in the states.”
Most of Lin’s clients are trying to put their paperwork together and apply for asylum before the January deadline.
“If the Trump administration decides to end this program, the immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally or legally that are under this program will be deported unless they have asylum in the states or are married to a U.S. citizen,” she said.
Lt Alto is among the thousands of Haitian TPS recipients that have spent years rebuilding their lives in the United States. Alto, who lives in the New York area, says she lost everything in the 2010 earthquake.
“My mother and nephew died in the earthquake. I decided to go to the United States to pursue an education and do something with my life,” she said.
Alto, 39, has lived in the U.S. for almost ten years and works as a certified nursing assistant. Alto says if the program ends she will only have two options, flee to Canada with the others or stay in New York illegally.
“There is nothing left for me there,” she said. “I don’t know what to do…I am so stressed.”
Erique Gasse, a spokesperson with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police told Circa, said that “there was an notable increase in July but the influx of immigrants coming to Québec for the month of September is going down.”Canadian immigration officials weren’t able to say how many of the refugees crossing the border into Quebec are Haitian.
However, Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre estimated 2,500 refugees from the U.S. arrived in July due to President Donald Trump’s tough stance on immigration.
Brian Concannon Jr., Executive Director of Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, told Circa that eliminating the TPS program will cause more harm than good.
“It will be disastrous for both the U.S. and for Haiti,” he said. “Haiti does not have the infrastructure in place to take in these newcomers because they are still dealing with the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake and recent Hurricane Matthew.”
“If the Trump administration stops the program more TPS recipients will try to stay here illegal and will not pay taxes and contribute to our economy,” he added.
Concannon Jr. has studied Haiti and its economy for years and says that extending the program for 18 more months will give the government of Haiti more time to prepare for the TPS recipients.
“Extending the program will be good for Haiti and the TPS recipients because it gives them more time to plan and prepare,” he said.
“If they end this program it will only cause more problems for the U.S. government,” he added.