Port-au-Prince, Haiti. January 2010. Photo Credit: Garry Pierre-Pierre.

Yesterday Haitians throughout the Diaspora marked the 10th anniversary of the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake that killed roughly 250,000 Haitians and displaced millions more. Those 30 seconds had a ripple effect that would impact millions of Haitians throughout the Diaspora, extending from Port-au-Prince to Tijuana. 

In the days following the earthquake, the Obama administration granted temporary protected status (TPS) to Haitian nationals that had been living in the United States since the day of the earthquake. Ten years and several court cases and lawsuits later, Haitian TPS recipients have endured a legal and emotional battle against two administrations over their claim to stay in the U.S. as conditions in Haiti fluctuate between bad and worst. 

I imagine this anniversary is especially difficult for them. On the one hand, the anniversary is a reminder of the devastation and loss they faced, and on the other hand, the anniversary is a reminder of their precarious fate in a country that was supposed to be a refuge. There’ve been several victories for TPS advocates. For example, in April 2019 in Saget v. Trump, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York ruled against the administration’s attempt to terminate the designation. Despite this, TPS recipients live under a blanket of fear and uncertainty about their place in the U.S. 

Now that TPS has been extended to January 2021, advocates, Haitian-American elected officials, and community leaders need to focus on how they’re going to use their influence to find a permanent solution to a temporary situation. 

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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