Photo credit: Naeisha Rose

By Naeisha Rose

The fight to protect Haitians immigrants under Temporary Protected Status (TPS) in the United States is full steam ahead and resulted in a lawsuit against President Donald Trump and a rally held on Monday at the Eastern District of New York Federal Courthouse.

The Jan. 7 demonstration that was held at 9 a.m. was in support of the approximately 50,000 people from Haiti who were granted TPS in the wake of 2010 earthquake. The designation however will expire on July 22, following Trump’s decision not to renew TPS. 

Church groups, elected officials and TPS holders attended the rally.

“I am one of the first people of Haitian descent elected to the state Legislature,” said Long Island Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages. “I am an individual who employs someone a TPS worker. My friends and family members are TPS recipients and I stand in solidarity with them.”

Brooklyn Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte was also in attendance.

“I represent the largest Haitian community in the whole state of New York where we just established Little Haiti,” said Bichotte. “It is a place where many Haitians come to feed their families, pay their taxes, and contribute to our society.”

She argued that TPS for Haitians immigrants is a basic human right.

“TPS was instituted in the 90s for the purpose of protecting people that can’t go back to the devastated situations in their country,” said Bichotte. “Now we have this administration that is trying to violate the Constitution.”

One of the organizations fighting for the Haitians on TPS is the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti.

“The trial is expected to last four days,” said Steven Forester, the immigration policy coordinator for the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti. “The lawsuit alleges that the Trump administration violated the Constitution and U.S. statutes in terminating TPS.”

Additional evidence for keeping and for ending TPS was submitted at the trial, which started after the rally, and may result in the trial running even longer than four days.

According to Forester, Haiti was and remains a textbook candidate for TPS, a legal designation that allows immigrants to work and live in the United States because of natural disasters and other humanitarian crises.

In 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake decimated the island and resulted in the death of 250,000 Haitians, according to Forester. Shortly afterwards, there was a cholera epidemic brought to the island from Nepalese United Nations peacekeeping soldiers. While still recovering from the earthquake and cholera epidemic, the small island nation was hit by Hurricane Matthew in 2016, which left 3.2 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, according to UNICEF.

The motivation for ending TPS for Haitians is anti-immigration ideology and the Trump administration’s bias towards Caribbean, African and Hispanics/Latinos, according to Forester.

“The earthquake, the cholera outbreak and Hurricane Matthew, anyone of which merited an extension of TPS and that is a complete no-brainer,” said Forester. “Trump said that he prefers people from Norway.”

The Saget et al v. Trump case is the first trial to challenge the government’s unlawful termination of TPS, according to a press release. Experts on the conditions in Haiti, and the former Department of Homeland Security officials are scheduled to testify at the trial about why these immigrants should not be deported to Haiti and about documented racial attitudes within the agency.

Relief groups and politicians across the aisle have agreed that the Haitian in the U.S. should not be force deport back to Haiti, said Forester.

In a meeting about TPS on Jan. 11, 2018, Trump said that Africans and Haitians are from “shithole countries,” and further added, “why do we need more Haitians.”

The suit against Trump was brought on by a dozen plaintiffs, including Patrick Saget, a TPS recipient, Haïti Liberté, a Haitian newspaper, the Family Action Network Movement Inc., an immigration coalition that works to empower Haitian women and their families in south Florida, according to National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild (NIPNLG ).

Lawyers from NIPNLG with the law firms of Kurzban, Kurzban, Weinger, Tetzeli and Pratt P.A, (Kurzban) and Mayer Brown came into the defense of the TPS holders because the rhetoric against Haitian immigrants were too explicit and ugly to ignore.

“It motivated us to step in,” said Paromita Shah, an associate director of NIPNLG who was at the rally and later went to the trial held at 9:30 a.m.

Shah also considered other actions toward Haitians to be a witch-hunt against the immigrant group.

“They were claiming that Haitians came with AIDS, that the immigrants had criminal records or saying they were using public benefits as reasons to terminate TPS,” said Shah. “Terminating temporary protected status should only really have to do with the conditions in Haiti…they were hunting for reasons to cut it short.”

The location of the trial is 225 Cadman Plaza E.

Naeisha Rose is a multimedia journalist and graduate of the Arts & Culture and Broadcast programs at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has experience working on independent short films, short documentaries, reality television shows, talk and web series as a Casting Associate, 1st AD and Production Assistant. She is a freelance writer with photography, voice over, social media, video production and video editing skills. She has worked as a General Assignment Reporter/Photojournalist for TimesLedger Newspapers, a Book Reviewer for Publishers Weekly and a Freelance Writer for LatinTrends Magazine.

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