Rally against President Donald Trump. Jan. 15, 2018, Times Square, NY. Photo Credit: Garry Pierre-Pierre
Rally against President Donald Trump. Jan. 15, 2018, Times Square, NY. Photo Credit: Garry Pierre-Pierre

By Garry Pierre-Pierre

On Wednesday, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy dropped a bombshell. The 81-year-old centrist jurist, resigned from the highest bench in the nation.

With his exit, the court has shifted way to the right and we are guaranteed of right-leaning decisions for at least a generation. Justice Kennedy, though no flaming liberal, had become a deciding vote on a many of issues, the last one protecting the Affordable Care Act, commonly and derisively known as Obamacare. Without his vote millions of Americans would now be without health insurance.

So what does that mean for us Haitians. Well, it’s not good news. I wish I was overstating the impact on our community.  But am not. This is a dire situation and we need all hands on deck, particularly the Haitian-American clergy, which wields considerable influence in the community.

When you consider what President Donald Trump has done since taking office, by this time next year, the Haitian community faces a potential existential crisis. There are roughly 60,000 of us who face a stark choice. Self-deport or run of risk of being deported by immigration officials. That’s because last year President Donald Trump revoked the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) bestowed for Haitians whose home country was crippled after the January 2010 earthquake.

Under TPS, Haitians could work and live in the United States legally.  Trump has been all over the place on many issues. But when it comes to immigration, particularly those from black and brown countries, he’s been consistently against us.  In the last two weeks, the president ordered children be separated from their parents who are seeking political asylum. The cruel and unusual punishment is being purposely implemented as a deterrent to others fleeing anarchy and violence that they are not welcome here.

Just this week, the Supreme Court this week ruled 5-4 that Trump can ban people from certain, largely Muslim countries, from entering the United States. With the court’s makeup expect more such rulings down the road.

Trump has also not been too kind to the so called Dreamers, children whose parents brought them here without legal documents. The majority of Americans empathized with these people, who are now adult. But the Trump administration and their enablers in Congress have refused to pass legislation that would legalize their status and give them a pathway to citizenship. There are roughly 600,000 people affected by the inaction.

It is not only illegal immigrants that are at risk under this regime. Green card holders are being deported at an alarming rate for minor infractions to countries they have not lived in in decades, making them strangers in their birth place they left years if not decades ago.

I’ve read of cases where officials are reviewing citizenship applications to find discrepancies they can use as justification to bring criminal charges, revoke  citizenship and deport people for the flimsiest reasons.

What are our alternatives? There have been efforts in the community to update some TPS holders status. But at this point the options are limited for the majority of people. Marriage to a U.S. citizen is one of the few options left on the table. But that process has come under rigorous scrutiny and over the last few years because some people were gaming the system.

What is so distressing by Justice Kennedy’s retirement is that we had come to rely on the Supreme Court as a safety valve against Trump’s craziness. Now that security blanket will be taken away. Congress has abdicated its role as a co-equal branch of government and has been supine when it comes to standing up to Trump.

The mainstream media has its limits and has been branded the “enemy of the American people” by our dear leader, Trump. So the citizenry is the last group capable of standing up to protect us from this madness that is gripping this country today.

Our last weapon to fight Trump on his assault on our community is for us to take our civic duty and activism to unprecedented level. We need to begin an intense campaign by educating the people on the critical issues we’re facing and what they mean to them.

As we conduct these forum, we also need simultaneous citizenship drives, voter registration drives and voter turnout efforts. We need to elect people who will fight for our cause, put some restraints on Trump and defend the constitution and the American way of life. Bring back decency to this country that we have adopted as ours. Those of us who are fortunate to be here legally cannot quietly sit while grave injustices are being done to our brothers and sisters.

Are we able to rise to this occasion and take control of our destiny in the U.S? I truly hope that we can. Frankly we have no choice. I shudder at watching the image of thousands of Haitians being round up and deported.

While the current cadre of secular leaders are mired in a soul searching moment, am counting on the religious leaders to rise to the occasion. On any given Sunday thousands of Haitians attend church services and the clergies ought to speak out against the injustices that are being heaped on us. They must open their halls for the registration drives.

I know that the Haitian-American clergy has a history of keeping its distance from social and political activism and I respect that. But these are not normal times and we need to cast aside some precedence to deal with this clear and present danger that Trump represents. Again, I do not write this lightly. We need to act and act fast. This is a call for all good people to step up and defend our rights that are under severe attack.

Our religious leaders cannot sit idly by. If they do, history will not be kind to them.

Garry Pierre-Pierre is a Pulitzer-prize winning, multimedia and entrepreneurial journalist. In 1999, he left the New York Times to launch the Haitian Times, a New York-based English-language publication serving the Haitian Diaspora. He is also the co-founder of the City University Graduate School of Journalism‘s Center for Community and Ethnic Media and a senior producer at CUNY TV.

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