Haitians in US face hurdles after protected-status renewal delays
Thousands of Haitian immigrants living in the US legally will face employment and travel hurdles because President Donald Trump's administration delayed the process of re-registering those with temporary protected status, Haitian community leaders and immigrant activists say.
US Citizenship and Immigration Services released details Thursday about the next steps for the 60,000 Haitians with the special status, an agency spokeswoman told The Associated Press.
But the information comes too late to help the thousands of Haitians who hold immigration documents that show their legal and work status expiring Monday, said immigrants and advocates, some of whom wondered – in light of the president's recent remarks about Haiti – if the bureaucratic slowdown was deliberate.
"They told me that if I don't bring the work papers, they will send me home because it is the law. You have to have work papers. I am under pressure," said Edelyne Jean, a 35-year-old nursing assistant in Coral Springs, Florida, who supports four younger siblings still in Haiti. "They say that if I don't bring anything new by January 22 or the 23rd at the most, I am jobless."
Haitian workers like Jean will be left at the mercy of employers, who could simply choose to let them go, or hire someone else rather than wait for a process that could take months, says the Rev Dieufort Fleurissaint, chairman of Haitian Americans United, a Boston-based community group.
"They're putting a lot of people in a very, very difficult situation," he says of federal officials. "Employers are not going to take time to understand this. People will be in limbo come Monday."
Haitians were granted temporary protected status to live and work in the US after a devastating earthquake struck their Caribbean homeland in 2010. The status has been renewed a number of times over the past seven years, to the chagrin of critics who say the humanitarian measure was never meant to allow immigrants to establish roots in the US.
The Trump administration announced in November that Haitians living under the temporary status would have until July 2019 to get their affairs in order and return home.