By Naeisha Rose
Mimi Pierre, a Long Island community leader who has fought to protect the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for Haitian immigrants, sees President Donald Trump’s executive order to end the Haitian Family Reunification Parole (HFRP) as his latest attack on the Haitian community.
For the past 24 years, Pierre has worked in Long Island as the president of the Argo Civic Association, a Girl Scout troop leader, a radio host of Radio-Kreyol on 89.7 FM and as the founder of the Elmont Cultural Center, an organization that she created to connect Haitians and other local residents to their local officials to protect their community. Through that organization, she has helped to provide resources for health, employment and the environment for others.
She has used her voice at the center to connect Haitians with local elected officials like Assemblywoman Michealle Solages and U.S. Rep. Carl Achille to get help from legal advocates pertaining to their undocumented status to mitigate the impact of Trump’s immigration policies for the community.
This is “yet again another example of the inhumane immigration policies of this administration towards countries of color and keeping immigrant families apart,” said Pierre.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) agency announced earlier this month that it will end HFRP along with a similar program for Filipino World War II veterans because of an executive order from Trump to curtail migration.
The parole program allowed Haitian nationals to temporarily or permanently remain in the U.S. if the applicant had approved family-based petitions and were authorized to live and work in the country and wait for a green card, according to USCIS on Aug. 2.
The program began after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, according to a spokeswoman of USCIS.
“Under these categorical parole programs, individuals have been able to skip the line and bypass the proper channels established by Congress. With the termination of these programs, these individuals will no longer be permitted to wait in the United States for their family-based green card to become available, consistent with the rules that apply to the rest of the world,” said USCIS Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli. “Parole is to be used on a case-by-case basis for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit.”
Since the HFRP’s inception in 2014 through June 21, 2019, there have 8,302 individuals that were provided with travel documents, according to the spokeswoman. Those that have successfully become lawful permanent residents or were in the process of becoming LPRs won’t be affected by the termination.
The last invitation for Haitian nationals to the HFRP program was 2016 and there are currently 15 cases pending arbitration, according to the spokeswoman.
“Haitians abroad are a vital part of the economic viability of many communities and an economic sustaining factor for families back home,” Pierre said. “An extended family helps to strengthen and build our communities. To end this policy is reaffirming the attacks on Haiti from getting the help it desperately needs. This from a president who then as a candidate promised to be a champion for the Haitian people.”
Going back on a campaign promise
Jean Eddy Saint Paul, a professor in the Department of Sociology at Brooklyn College and the co-founder of the CUNY Haitian Studies Institute, believes that Trump used Haitian Americans, especially those in the Little Haiti section of Florida, to get votes from the swing state during the campaign, with the intention of eventually turning his back on providing help to their families on the Caribbean island.
“Donald Trump is a manifestation of an iceberg for immigrants and new immigrants,” said Saint Paul. “He is the totality of the racism that we have in the United States of America since the founding of this Republic.”
Saint Paul believes that Trump took advantage of former President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s mishandling of relief funds for Haiti after it got hit by a magnitude seven earthquake on Jan. 12, 2010 to prop himself up during the 2016 presidential elections.
In 2012, UN Envoy Clinton and Sec. Rodham and their Clinton Foundation were among the millions of people and organizations worldwide that helped to raise $9.04 billion for the devastated island, but fewer than one percent of the funds went to Haitian charities, less than 10 percent went to the Haitian government 89.8 percent went to non-Haitian organizations, according to the Office of the Special Envoy of Haiti.
In 2016, Florida had a 150,000 Haitian-American voting bloc, plenty of whom was angry about the lack of funds that went directly to Haiti.
“If any candidate wins Florida,” said Saint Paul “there is a big possibility for that candidate to win the general election. From an electoral college standpoint, the state is very important for anyone running for president. Despite what people think, Trump is not stupid and when he brought this up in a debate in Florida he knew there was a large Haitian population in the state.”
On Jan. 11, 2018, the eve of the 8th anniversary of Haiti being hit by a magnitude seven earthquake, Trump called Haiti and African nations “shithole countries.”
Three days later, demonstrators in West Palm Beach protested against the president when he went to visit Florida.
Since being elected into office in 2016, the president has also accused Haitians of contributing to the AIDS crisis and has tried to end TPS, a legal measure that would provide Haitian nationals who were impacted by environmental disasters or violence in their home country the ability to work, live and go to school in the U.S. until problems improved on the island.
This resulted in an immediate backlash from the Haitian community and lawsuits across the country that have put up roadblocks to Trump’s cancellation of the program during a cholera outbreak and political unrest on the island.
U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) also took issue with the president’s new order.
“This is yet another cruel and heartless decision by the Trump administration. It is unconscionable and further illustrates the President’s anti-immigrant agenda and shameful practice of separating families,” said Meng. “The Haitian community has contributed greatly to our nation.”