I took a quick glimpse at the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services website for a definition of Temporary Protected Status and the criteria for eligibility. It stated that TPS was part of the immigration act of 1990, where the U.S congress established a procedure by which the Attorney General may provide TPS to aliens in the United States who are temporarily unable to safely return to their home country because of ongoing armed conflict, an environmental disaster, or other extraordinary and temporary conditions.
Currently there are six countries that are designated for TPS, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan and Liberia. In recent months, members of the Haitian Diaspora have been demanding for Haiti to join that list, and the reasoning behind it is that the four hurricanes of last year should be considered as an environmental disaster, if not even an extraordinary conditions.
I am a big supporter of open borders, so it should not be a shock that I am all in favor of granting TPS to everyone who might be eligible for it. At the same time, I am also a realist and understand that the United States cannot be granting TPS to everyone who makes a request for it.
As a Haitian citizen, I certainly understand why many of my compatriots want the Obama administration to grant TPS to almost 30,000 Haitian immigrants. I have spoken to some of the advocates for TPS, and some of the answers are that if they can grant it to those other countries, then Haitians should definitely get it. Others say that it is a gesture of compassion to grant TPS to Haitians. I even heard that it is the law. Therefore, we should be eligible for it.
In the midst of all that advocacy work for TPS for Haitians, I felt very uncomfortable that there is not a greater outcry among those advocates, to turn Haiti into a safe refuge for all Haitians. Also, what is really lost while we are advocating for TPS is the fact that few people are crying foul for the deportation of criminals to Haiti. Many of those deportees left Haiti when they were really young, and most of them have no connection to the country whatsoever.
I can’t imagine how it must be for someone to feel unwanted by their native country, and at the same time living behind closed doors in a foreign country, which is very desperate to send them back home. This is the plight of many Haitian immigrants living illegally in the United States.
The Haitian government made no secrecy about its inability to accept Haitians expatriates. President Rene Preval has personally asked for a halt in deportation of Haitians to Haiti. In the process, unknowingly, he has accepted his failure to provide adequate opportunities for all Haitians.
The issue that should really infuriate the Haitian community is not so much whether the Obama administration should provide TPS for Haitians, but rather how as a community we can come to eliminate the need to beg for TPS.
Asking for temporary relief is just that, a temporary act. It is time that we seek permanent solution to our problems. We have been putting band aid on our wounds for far too long, and it’s time for us to carry our own weight.
By demanding for TPS, have we asked ourselves for how long we would need this protection? Are we thinking to continually ask for a renewal each time it is about to expire? Are we getting Haiti to a point, where it will be able to welcome all Haitians?
Yes, someone must represent the Haitians living illegally overseas. We must always ask to be treated fairly as human beings, but I would not feel any resentment against any foreign powers if they don’t succumb to our demands. In fairness, how can we expect foreigners to be on our side when our own government won’t stand for us?
As a nation of great pride and a unique history, we are losing the meaning of our existence by debasing ourselves each time we beg a foreign government to come to our aid. We ought to always look to attack the issues at their roots.
As a community, we must give part of ourselves to make our native home better for those who have no other place to go, and also for those who risked their lives to go to foreign lands. We must advocate against or at least discourage the practice of illegal migration of our compatriots. In order to do so, we must invest ourselves in the welfare of our country.
The task at hand is not to waste our resources hoping to get TPS for our fellow citizens, but to put them to good use to make Haiti all that it can be. When we achieve that goal, there will not be a need for mass demonstration demanding TPS, unless we have a natural environmental disaster or extraordinary conditions beyond our control.
The same four hurricanes that passed by Haiti, also passed by the Dominican Republic, Cuba among other Caribbean countries, and yet we were the worst affected. That did not happen because the hurricanes were strongest in Haiti, but because our government is never ready to protect its citizens.
We must stop using excuses, and hold those responsible accountable. It is a disgrace when a government is refusing to welcome back its own citizens for whatever reasons, but it is even worse when those citizens are looking for a scapegoat to their own failures. There is a time to mobilize as a community and ask for rescue from others, but right now we are simply looking for the easiest way out instead of stepping up to the challenge, in the process we are losing all sense of pride.