By Jacqueline Charles
MIAMI | Haitian immigrant advocates say they can’t believe that the Trump administration has launched a “witch hunt” for Haitians with criminal records as it decides whether or not to keep allowing thousands of them to remain in the United States under a special immigration humanitarian program.
“It’s a big show,” Randy McGrorty, an attorney and director of Catholic Legal Services in Miami, said about the inquiries being made by the Department of Homeland Security as it decides whether to continue with the Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, program for Haitians.
According to The Associated Press, internal emails it obtained show that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has made inquiries into the Haitian community’s criminal history.
The emails also reveal that the agency wants to know how many of the 58,000 Haitians enrolled in the Temporary Protected Status program are taking advantage of public benefits, which they are not eligible to receive.
The revelation comes just weeks after DHS announced the creation of the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE) office to help victims of crimes by immigrants, and on the heels of a recommendation by James McCament, acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, to terminate Temporary Protected Status for Haitians as of January.
McCament made the recommendation to Department of Homeland Secretary John Kelly in an April 10 memo. The AP says that while the move is considered to be unorthodox, it suggests that Kelly may be looking at other criteria in deciding whether the United States should continue to shield the 58,000 Haitians enrolled in the program from deportation.
“It is disheartening to hear that instead of renewing TPS for these hardworking families who are at risk of losing their jobs, Secretary Kelly has decided to go on a witch hunt for criminals,” said Marleine Bastien, a leading Haitian advocate and head of the Haitian Women of Miami. “Haitian nationals with criminal records to do not qualify for TPS or benefits.”