Trump Administration Is Sending Haitians Back To A Country Still Mired In Disaster

The Trump administration has ended immigration protections for thousands of Haitians in the U.S. starting in 18 months, which will force many to abandon the lives and communities they’ve built to return to a country still recovering from disaster.

Senior Trump administration officials announced Monday the upcoming end of temporary protected status (TPS) for Haitians, a special designation applied to 59,000 Haitians after a massive earthquake devastated the island nation in 2010. Unless Congress takes action, Haitian TPS recipients will have to achieve legal status or return to Haiti by July 2019 ― or risk deportation.

Haitian TPS recipients have been living in the U.S. for 13 years on average, according to the Center for Migration Studies. They also have 27,000 U.S.-born children. Those parents may soon have to decide whether to take their children to Haiti ― for some, a country they have never known ― or leave them behind.  

“I’ve never been to Haiti before,” said Ronyde Christina Ponthieux, the 10-year-old daughter of two TPS recipients, at a Tuesday news conference organized by the nonprofit Haitian Women of Miami. “I have trouble sleeping at night sometimes, because I know there is a possibility me and my family will be deported.”

“I love my dad, I love my parents,” she added, bursting into tears. “How can you do this to us?”

Santcha Etienne, left, hugs Ronyde Christina Ponthieux, 10, after she spoke at a news conference at the office of the Haitian Women of Miami on Nov. 6. (Joe Raedle via Getty Images)

I have trouble sleeping at night sometimes, because I know there is a possibility me and my family will be deported. Ronyde Christina Ponthieux, the 10-year-old daughter of Haitians with protected status

What’s more, Haiti ― the poorest country in the Western hemisphere ― is in no condition to receive thousands of arrivals, experts warn.

The country has still not fully recovered from the 2010 earthquake, which killed more than 300,000 people and devastated the country’s infrastructure. The disaster also left the nation with an ongoing cholera epidemic after U.N. peacekeepers, who were there to assist with rescue efforts, brought the disease to the country. Since then, it has also been hit by Hurricane Matthew in 2016, as well as Maria in September.

“Since the earthquake, there’s been a series of natural disasters, not to mention a cholera outbreak,” Kevin Appleby, senior director at the…

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