iLocal News Archives

TPS makes ethical sense for immigrants amid Caribbean recovery | Opinion

By Kathleen Bergin and Ediberto Roman From Sun Sentinel

A bipartisan group of lawmakers wants to protect immigrants in the U.S. from being deported to hurricane-battered islands in the Caribbean. The group petitioned the Trump administration to grant “Temporary Protected Status” to immigrants from islands where, a month after two monster storms, basic life necessities remain in short supply.

With attention rightly focused on dire conditions in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, we should not forget the unprecedented damage to islands outside of the U.S. In the Dominican Republic, 7,000 people were displaced, and 2,000 homes destroyed. Nearly all of Dominica’s crops are gone. Most of Barbuda is uninhabitable. Recovery has barely begun, and experts stress it will take years, if not decades, to rebuild.

Without the safeguard of TPS, however, nearly four million Caribbean immigrants who live in the U.S. face an uncertain future. President Trump has directed federal officials to deport immigrants with no criminal record, including parents who have lived here for years, and whose children are American citizens. He has also promised to end DACA, an Obama-era achievement that allowed youngsters who were brought here as children to legally work and attend school alongside their American peers.

TPS is a humane remedy for inhumane conditions such as armed conflict, natural disaster, and other catastrophic events. When it is too dangerous for immigrants to return, the Department of Homeland Security can confer TPS status to an affected country, thereby providing temporary but life-saving protection for immigrants in the U.S. The program is meant to address exactly what’s unfolding now in the Caribbean.

TPS designations are both rare and extraordinary, which makes the system hard to abuse. Only 10 countries presently qualify, including Haiti and Nepal, where catastrophic climate events, natural disasters, and outbreaks of disease aggravated political unrest and social vulnerability. To understand how deeply disruptive these events can be, consider that 38,000 people are still living in squalid displacement camps, seven years after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

TPS does not encourage new immigration, nor does it provide a back-door to citizenship. It is available only to immigrants who can demonstrate a “continuing presence” in the U.S. when TPS is granted, and who pass criminal background checks and other eligibility requirements. Immigrants who arrive later do not qualify.

Moreover, TPS is typically granted for 6-18 months. Whatever status an immigrant held before TPS, is the same status that applies when TPS expires. Undocumented immigrants from the Caribbean would then be subject to the laws and requirements associated with that status. TPS renewals are possible, but only after additional input from DHS, the State Department, country officials, and other interested parties.

Importantly, TPS helps reverse the very conditions that make deportation so dangerous. Immigrants from TPS countries are permitted to work, and large sums of what they earn are sent back as remittances to their home country. Liberia received upwards of $340 million annually, a full 25 percent of the country’s GDP, before TPS was terminated earlier this year. Remittances to Sierra Leone and Guinea also helped move those countries towards stability, and off the TPS list.

In the Caribbean, remittances already range from $9 million to $3.8 billion annually. Every one of those dollars and more will be needed to promote recovery going forward.

TPS makes practical and ethical sense. Let’s support this measure in order to protect the lives of Caribbean immigrants, and to help their islands rebuild.

Kathleen Bergin is a human rights lawyer who worked with disaster survivors after Hurricane Katrina, and was part of the team that won a judgment against the government of Haiti following the 2010 earthquake. She blogs as The Disaster Law Page.

Ediberto Roman is a law professor and legal historian who teaches at Florida International University College of Law. His 2005 book on American Colonization was nominated for the James Willard Hurst prize for best work in legal history.

Copyright © 2017, Sun Sentinel

IMAGE: Democratic and Republican U.S. senators and representatives are calling on President Donald Trump’s administration to continue temporary protected status for Haitians in the U.S. The nation was devastated by the 2010 earthquake and 2016 Hurricane Matthew, and suffered more damage from Hurricane Irma.

For more on this story and video go to:


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *