Haitians living under a special protected immigration status have been put on notice that they will have to return to Haiti. The U.S. announced that around 60,000 Haitians living under Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, will no longer have that protection and have to return to Haiti by July 2019.
Ted Registre, 24, and his younger brother are among those in North Texas who are weighing their options.
“I’ve been in Texas since 2011, you know, and finished college, been working,” said Registre. “I’m basically a Texan, that’s what I consider myself now.”
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Registre and his brother immigrated to the U.S. in 2010 after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake ravaged their home in Haiti. Their father was killed in the quake, so the boys came to the United States when a Temporary Protected Status was extended to the victims.
The Department of Homeland Security said on Monday that conditions in Haiti have improved significantly since 2010. The announcement came 60 days before temporary status is set to expire. In May, the agency had only given six months instead of the usual 18.
The program protects people from deportation if they are from designated countries that have been ravaged by natural disaster or war.
Registre owns a small production company and helps organize social events for fellow Haitians in North Texas. He says he always knew his immigration status was temporary, but also expected he wouldn’t be asked to return to Haiti until conditions improve. He says his mother, who remained in Haiti, doesn’t believe the humanitarian crisis is over.
“If I go back, if my brother goes back, we are going to go there with no jobs. We have nothing to offer. Our life savings could help for a few months, but after that, what do we do?”
Haiti, already a poor country, has faced large-scale natural disasters: an earthquake in 2010 and a hurricane in 2016. The recovery was also complicated by a cholera epidemic. The U.S. State Department warns American Citizens traveling to Haiti should use caution because of an increase in crime and kidnappings.
Haitians living in the U.S. under TPS aren’t the only people put on notice. The U.S. is also ending TPS benefits for people from Sudan and Nicaragua. A decision on the status of Hondurans with TPS is expected next summer.
Dallas-based immigration attorney Susana Reyes says some families will face tough decisions, especially if their children were born in the United States.
“As a parent you’re going to have to consider, do I leave my child here, do I separate from them? Do I risk staying here without status?” said Reyes. “These are very hard decisions for a family to make.”
Those with TPS who meet the qualifications can work in the U.S. They aren’t given permanent residency, but they are not in the country illegally as TPS protects them from deportation.
Reyes says those on notice that their TPS protection is ending may have few options. Some may qualify to have an employer or qualifying family member sponsor them in an application for permanent residency, but the process can take years.
Reyes says Congress should tackle broader immigration reforms, instead of allowing temporary solutions to turn into extended stays that may feel permanent, but aren’t.
Registre said he and his little brother have few ties left in their native Haiti. His brother was in elementary school when they first came to the United States.
“He doesn’t even speak French anymore,” said Registre. “It’s basically a new country for him and even for myself. Being away from a country for seven years, a lot has changed. You basically throw us back."