Haitian immigrant program under review by Trump administration

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In keeping with his campaign promise to make America safer, President Donald Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigration has resulted in the deportation of many criminal illegals, but he’s come up against legal brick walls in his efforts to suspend refugee arrivals and temporarily block visitors from countries that sponsor terrorists.

Now Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly is responsible for deciding what to do with the roughly 50,000 Haitians currently enrolled in the Temporary Protected Status program.

The Obama administration included Haiti in the Temporary Protected Status program shortly after the area was destroyed in January 2010 by an earthquake that killed approximately 300,000 people. Since then, all Haitians who came to the U.S. before Jan. 12, 2011 (legally or illegally) have been eligible to stay.

However, this protection for Haitians will expire on July 22, so the Trump administration has to decide by May 23 whether or not to extend their stay.

In an unorthodox move, the Trump administration is using the rate of crimes committed in the U.S. by Haitians as a litmus test in making this decision. Inquiries into the community’s criminal history were made in internal U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services emails obtained by The Associated Press.

“The emails don’t make clear if Haitian misdeeds will be used to determine whether they can remain in the United States,” said the AP report, which notes that the decision to extend their stay would normally depend on whether conditions in their home country have improved enough for them to return. But the inquiries suggest that criminality will be factored into the decision, which falls to Kelly.

USCIS’ acting director James McCament said in an April 10 memo that the Haitians should go home, because Haiti is no longer in crisis despite its poverty and political instability.

The emails show that Homeland Security personnel are delving into many details about the Haitians here so that Kelly can make an informed decision.

“Please dig for any stories (successful or otherwise) that would show how things are in Haiti – i.e. rebuilding stories, work of nonprofits, how the U.S. is helping certain industries,” Kathy Nuebel Kovarik, the USCIS head of policy and strategy, wrote on April 28. “We should also find any reports of criminal activity by any individual with TPS. Even though it’s only a snapshot and not representative of the entire situation, we need more than ‘Haiti is really poor’ stories.”

Much of the data was not available or very difficult to find, but the emails show that Haiti has benefited from roughly $1.3 billion in remittances from the United States in 2015. According to the AP report, “Officials said they could only guess how much came from the temporarily protected group, which comprise only a fraction of the estimated 954,000-strong Haitian diaspora in the United States.”

Puzzled by the inquiries about Haitian criminality, Maria Odom, a former Citizenship and Immigration Services ombudsman who served in the Obama administration, said the government already checks criminal histories of applicants and denies protections to those who’ve broken U.S. laws.

“You should not craft a humanitarian policy based on the few,” said Odom.

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