As Haiti faces uncertainty, local advocates plead with Biden to help asylum seekers


This story is the result of a collaboration between Haitian weather and THE CITY.

New York pressure groups and elected officials are pushing the Biden administration to facilitate deportations and quickly provide protected status to Haitian nationals following the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.

US Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas announced in May an 18-month extension of so-called temporary protection status for 55,000 Haitian nationals. But the federal government has yet to release details on how to apply for the TPS in its federal registry, leaving potential applicants embarrassed.

“The situation on the ground in Haiti has been so frightening and uncertain and frankly really dangerous over the past few months,” said Haddy Gassama, director of policy and advocacy at UndocuBlack Network. “With what we imagine to be the exacerbation of all of these dangerous conditions with the assassination of the president, everything we said still exists and will probably only get worse unfortunately.”

Meanwhile, the Biden administration has already deported more Haitians in the first months of 2021 than former President Donald Trump throughout 2020, according to a joint report from the UndocuBlack Network, Haitian Bridge Alliance and Quixote. Center.

Advocates point to the administration’s continued use of so-called Title 42 of the United States Code, which allows the United States to deport asylum seekers without a trial or hearing due to health concerns related to the COVID-19.

“[Title 42] literally dismantled the entire asylum system, ”said Guerline Jozef, executive director of the Haitian Bridge Alliance. “While Haiti was on fire, the United States was sending people to their deaths. “

“Running away for their life”

Jozef said thousands of Haitian nationals are in Mexico after failing to gain asylum in the United States

“We ask them to make sure that we provide protections for individuals and families, not just children, who are fleeing for their lives,” Jozef told THE CITY.

Haitian Bridge Alliance, UndocuBlack Network and dozens of other advocacy groups sent a letter on July 8 to officials in the Biden administration calling for an end to the use of Title 42 and immediate release of new TPS guidelines. for Haitian nationals.

Haitian President Jovenel Moïse in 2019.
Ambassador Kelly Craft / Twitter

A spokesperson for the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services did not provide THE CITY with a date when the new TPS guidelines would be published in the federal registry.

The TPS designation was created by Congress in 1990 initially to protect refugees from El Salvador’s civil war. Since then, it has spread to those who come to the United States and cannot return due to some form of crisis in their home country, whether natural or man-made.

Haiti was first designated for TPS status after an earthquake in January 2010 killed 250,000 to 300,000 people and severely damaged several towns.

“Interference policy”

U.S. Haiti policy experts and lawyers have noted that while Biden has campaigned for the Haitian-American vote in Florida, local organizers shouldn’t expect his administration to act quickly without pressure.

“As far as Haiti is concerned, the foreign policy of the United States has always been the same, whether it is a Republican or a Democrat in the White House,” said Jean Eddy Saint Paul, professor of sociology at Brooklyn College of CUNY and founding director of its Institute of Haitian Studies. . “It has always been the same policy of interfering in Haitian politics and helping people of low moral character to be placed in the highest political offices. “

Haiti was already in the midst of political and structural unrest before Moïse was executed in the early hours of July 7, lawyers and elected officials said.

Haitian officials have called on the United States to deploy troops to protect some of the country’s critical infrastructure. Instead, the United States announced that a group of officials from the FBI and the US Department of Homeland Security would travel to Haiti on Sunday to help its government investigate Moïse’s death.

Some Haitian-American elected officials fear that the United States is getting more involved.

Some have referred to the country’s occupation of Haiti for nearly two decades from 1915. Others have referred to the United States’ attempt to restore Haiti’s first democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, to return to power in the 1990s while paying and helping to form a violent paramilitary group that helped destabilize the country.

“We want to be able to protect the freedom and liberty of this black nation… and while we appreciate that support, we don’t want to risk losing the freedom of the people on the ground,” said Farah Louis, Brooklyn council member. of the National Network of Haitian-American Elected Officials. “So if someone comes to help, it’s because they support you, it’s not because you want to use your influence and your strength to try to gain the upper hand.”

Disarray in Little Haiti in Brooklyn

New York is home to the second largest population in the United States, after Florida, of people of Haitian descent. About 192,000 people, a likely undercount, with roots in the country residing in New York. Haitian New Yorkers who spoke to LA VILLE expressed shock and dismay at the death of Moses.

Some Haitian Americans from Little Haiti Brooklyn –– a small cultural and business district officially established in 2018 and located in the neighborhoods of Midwood, Flatbush and Kensington –– spoke of the plight of their family members in Haiti after learning of the death of Moses.

“My cousins ​​in Haiti are crying,” said Tray Carter, 30, as he stood outside Kreyol Flavor on Church Avenue. “They felt like it was the end of the world, because when was the last time a president was assassinated?

Jacques Laguerre said the murder was “devastating” for Haiti, the first black nation to gain independence from movable slavery, to lose its president in such a brazen attack.

Jacques Laguerre in a Little Haiti restaurant on Church Avenue, July 8, 2021.

Jacques Laguerre in a Little Haiti restaurant on Church Avenue, July 8, 2021.
Aria Velasquez / THE CITY

“Haitians are people who live with great pride,” said Laguerre, who lives in Flatbush.

“It’s a big insult,” he added.

Saint Paul agreed that the symbolism of Moses’ death is devastating for the people of Haiti as well as for those in the Haitian diaspora.

“The president is the head of state, so if a group of people have the freedom to enter the president’s residence and assassinate him,” Saint Paul said. “This translates into the fragility of Haiti and the Haitian people. “

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