Coffin holding a victim of the 2010 earthquake. Photo credit: Garry Pierre-Pierre

By Naeisha Rose

The second day of court proceedings for Saget et al v Trump, a case that wants to challenge President Donald Trump’s motion to end Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitian nationals was even more intense on Tuesday. 

One of the three new witnesses asked to testify as an expert on conditions in Haiti at the Eastern District of New York Federal Courthouse in Brooklyn on Jan. 8, was on the stand for over four hours as he elaborated on the many reasons he believes that TPS should be extended for Haitians. 

“I was roughly involved during my time as director on 12 to 15 TPS decisions,” said Leon Rodriguez, the former director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) from 2014 to 2017. 

Kevin Gregg, one of the many attorneys representing TPS-holders and other plaintiffs who are suing the Trump administration, considered Rodriguez, who has knowledge of procedures in how determinations on TPS are made, “a determining factor in winning the case.”

“With his testimony we are establishing that the process used by [former Acting] Secretary Elaine Duke [of Homeland Security] was improper,” said Gregg. “It will have an impact on other cases.”

A TPS designation allows immigrants to stay in the U.S. because of extraordinary conditions, natural disasters or war, according to Rodriguez. The Trump administration wants it terminated for Haitians by July 22. 

According to Rodriguez, information in reports about the conditions in Haiti and its ability to reabsorb approximately 50,000 to 60,000 nationals sent to Duke, were cherry picked by his successor Lee Francis Cissna, the current director of USCIS.

“Termination of TPS requires reasons to terminate and reasons that might undercut that, and we must have that information provided to the secretary so it’s balanced and doesn’t catch the secretary off-guard,” according to Rodriguez. When it came to TPS extensions he had “faithfully analyzed all information to support the extension of TPS and sentient” information outside of the original purpose of a TPS designation. 

TPS was granted to Haitian nationals because of a 7.1-magnitude earthquake in Jan. 12, 2010, but as the people tried to recover they had setbacks because of a cholera outbreak brought on by Nepalese United Nations peacekeeping soldiers 10 months later and Hurricane Matthew on Oct. 4, 2016.

However, similar to the first day of the trial, lawyers representing Trump tried to argue that TPS for Haiti should be terminated because the original factors for the designation no longer exist because the country’s GDP had a 1.7 percent increase from 2010 to 2016, there were plans by Haitian President Jovenel Moise to rebuild the presidential palace, and that 14,000 people were training to become officers. 

Cissna’s report is in violation “because it is a pretty misconstrued view of the facts of the [TPS] statute,” said Rodriguez. “You are supposed to be looking at the totality of circumstances at the time you make your decision.”

According to Rodriguez, Cissna purposefully declined to look at Haiti’s food insecurity and crime stats were blatantly ignored, as well as information on housing and other factors.

Roughly 50 percent of Haitians are malnourished, according to the U.S. Agency for International Development. 

Kidnappings and rape are up, according to The UN Refugee Agency. 

Since Hurricane Matthew, there have been violent protests in which two people were killed, there was corruption found in the Haitian government last week and there are only 14,000 officers to manage security on the island of 11 million people, according to lawyers representing the plaintiffs. Haiti is also considered the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere and the World Bank says 2.5 million people live on $1.33 per day. 

“All of those that we mentioned are highly relevant,” said Rodriguez. 

Despite the information presented by Rodriguez and the lawyers representing the plaintiffs, a damning video of the second witness who testified was used to question the accuracy of the devastation in Haiti. 

In the video clip, Kenneth “Kim” Ives, a journalist of Haiti Liberte and plaintiff on behalf of that newspaper, accuses NGOs of inflating the estimated death toll in Haiti as 312,000 and said it was probably closer to 60,000 or 80,000.

According to various news reports, the death toll after the earthquake is around 220,000 to 300,000. 

“Most of these people are charlatans,” said Ives in the video clip. 

The third witness, Marline Bastien, the executive director of the nonprofit Family Action Network Movement in Miami, is scheduled to finish the second half of her testimony on Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. at 225 Cadman Plaza E. in room N6H. 


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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