Tuesday, November 21, 2017

TPS for Haitians to end in 2019 (Nov. 21, 2017)

As many as 59,000 Haitians living in the U.S. under a provisional immigration program will lose that protection as of July, 2019, reports the Miami Herald. That gives Temporary Protection Status recipients 18 months to prepare their return to a country U.S. officials argue has recovered sufficiently from a devastating 2010 earthquake. 

"Since the 2010 earthquake, the number of displaced people in Haiti has decreased by 97 percent," acting homeland security secretary Elaine Duke said in a statement. "Significant steps have been taken to improve the stability and quality of life for Haitian citizens, and Haiti is able to safely receive traditional levels of returned citizens."

But advocates insist that Haiti is not prepared to accept this influx. Earlier this year human rights organizations and the Haitian government urged the U.S. to grant a longer extension of the program -- pointing to inadequate conditions on the ground for returnees and the vital role of remittances. (See May 31's briefs.) Though Haiti has rebuilt since the earthquake, it has also been hit by successive natural disasters, including widespread devastation from Hurricane Matthew last year. More than 2.5 million people, roughly a quarter of the population, live on less than $1.23 a day, considered extreme poverty, reports the Associated Press.

In addition, the country will be hard-hit by lost remittances from returning immigrants. Money sent from the Haitian diaspora totaled $2.36 billion in 2016, an increase of 7 percent over the previous year, reports the New York Times based on World Bank numbers. That's more than one-fourth of the country's national income.

The effects will also be disastrous for U.S. communities: "According to a recent study by the Center for Migration Studies, Haitians on TPS have been living in the United States on average for 13 years, and have 27,000 U.S.-citizen children among them. More than 80 percent are employed, while 6,200 have mortgages," notes the Herald. The decision will be devastating for families who must decide whether to leave their children behind in the U.S. or take them to a country that offers far less opportunity, notes NPR.

Two weeks ago, the Duke decided to end protection for Nicaraguan immigrants, but postponed a decision on Hondurans. (See Nov. 7's post.) Now this decision bodes ill for the approximately 320,000 recipients of TPS from all countries. The biggest group is El Salvadorans. The TPS program shielding about 195,000 Salvadorans from deportation expires next year and DHS is expected to make a decision on whether to terminate the program by January, 2018.

Several lawmakers point to the Haiti decision as evidence that a legislative solution protecting migrants from ten different countries permitted to stay after catastrophes at home must be found. They also accuse the Trump administration of mischaracterizing the conditions on the ground in Haiti, reports the BBC.

But the Trump administration says TPS was never meant to be an avenue for permanent residency, and the decision must be based on whether the original justifications for protection still exist, reports the Washington Post.

The looming threat of TPS termination has already sent thousands of Haitians across the Canadian border, where they hope to apply for asylum, though it's unclear they will be permitted to stay there. (See Aug. 4's and Aug. 14's posts.)

News Briefs
  • Chavismo has made serious inroads into journalism outlets in Venezuela. In the 18 years since Hugo Chávez was elected, "five television channels have been closed and nine removed from cable television subscription services; 62 radio stations have gone off the air because of official prohibitions; and the government has fined media outlets 32 times," according to Nieman Reports. Digital media outlets have stepped up to fill the void, aiming to inform audiences of issues -- like social protests -- that are ignored by traditional media threatened by censorship and economic policies. The piece reviews several key players in Venezuela's new media scene including Efecto Cocuyo, Prodavinci, El Pitazo, Armando.info and Runrunes.
  • Chile's surprising election results -- particularly the accedence of the Frente Amplio which garnered 20 percent of the vote -- point to an increasingly polarized political playing field and an uncertain result for December's presidential runoff, reports the Guardian. The left-leaning Frente Amplio is characterized as a "reluctant kingmaker." Candidate Beatriz Sánchez must decide whether to throw her weight behind Nueva Mayoría candidate Alejandro Guillier or focus on strengthening her radical independent movement. (See yesterday's post.)
  • "Officially, the Mexican government acknowledges the disappearances of more than 30,000 people — men, women and children trapped in a liminal abyss — neither dead nor alive, silent victims of the drug war," reports the New York Times. "But the truth is no one knows how many people are missing in Mexico." Both drug cartels and security forces have disposed of murdered people in unmarked graves, generating an even crueler situation for relatives who cannot even mourn a definitive death. "To search for a missing loved one in Mexico is to inhabit a life of desperate entrepreneurialism. Families, resigned to looking on their own, build coalitions, pressure and cajole officials, and cling to every shred of hope."
  • Mexicans sick of cartel violence and ineffective state protection have formed their own self-defense collectives, some of which have, in turn, also become criminal organizations. In Guerrero, where over half the municipalities have community police forces, the citizens find themselves battling the government as well as drug gangs, reports the New Yorker. The piece focuses particularly on the case of Nestora Salgado, one of several self-defense activists accused by the government of murder, kidnapping, organized crime, and robbery. Though she was ultimately cleared of the charges after nearly three years of jail, many of her colleagues are similarly accused. The piece quotes Steven Dudley on the evolution of the "auto defensas."
  • El Salvador's hardline policy towards gangs has been a disaster, and has made an already tragic cycle of violence even worst, writes Efrain Lemus in Nueva Sociedad. He compares the relatively successful homicide reductions of a gang truce with the effects of mano dura. While the former was politically unpopular, the latter has made security forces targets of gang violence, and led to human rights violations including police death squads reported on earlier this year.
  • One of the unsung heroes of the so-called "Medellín Miracle" are the hip-hop collectives that took on social-development initiatives, reports the Guardian. Crew Peligrosos, one of the country's most popular groups, for example, focuses efforts on classes for under-privileged youth. 
  • Two months after Hurricane Irma knocked down most of Barbuda's structures, most of its small population remains evacuated and reconstruction efforts are hindered by lack of residents, reports the Guardian.

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