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Haitians Face Hurdles on Status Renewal01/18 05:59

   Thousands of Haitian immigrants living in the U.S. legally will face 
employment and travel hurdles because President Donald Trump's administration 
delayed the process of re-registering those with temporary protected status, 
Haitian community leaders and immigrant activists say.

   BOSTON (AP) -- Thousands of Haitian immigrants living in the U.S. legally 
will face employment and travel hurdles because President Donald Trump's 
administration delayed the process of re-registering those with temporary 
protected status, Haitian community leaders and immigrant activists say.

   U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will release details Thursday 
about the next steps for the 60,000 Haitians with the special status, an agency 
spokeswoman told The Associated Press.

   But the information comes too late to help the thousands of Haitians who 
hold immigration documents that show their legal and work status expiring 
Monday, said immigrants and advocates, some of whom wondered --- in light of 
the president's recent remarks about Haiti --- if the bureaucratic slowdown was 
deliberate.

   "They told me that if I don't bring the work papers, they will send me home 
because it is the law. You have to have work papers. I am under pressure," said 
Edelyne Jean, a 35-year-old nursing assistant in Coral Springs, Florida, who 
supports four younger siblings still in Haiti. "They say that if I don't bring 
anything new by Jan. 22 or the 23rd at the most, I am jobless."

   Haitian workers like Jean will be left at the mercy of employers, who could 
simply choose to let them go or hire someone else rather than wait for a 
process that could take months, says Rev. Dieufort Fleurissaint, chairman of 
Haitian Americans United, a Boston-based community group.

   "They're putting a lot of people in a very, very difficult situation," he 
said of federal officials. "Employers are not going to take time to understand 
this. People will be in limbo come Monday."

   Haitians were granted temporary protected status to live and work in the 
U.S. after a devastating earthquake struck their Caribbean homeland in 2010. 
The status has been renewed a number of times over the past seven years, to the 
chagrin of critics who say the humanitarian measure was never meant to allow 
immigrants to establish roots in the U.S.

   The Trump administration announced in November that Haitians living under 
the temporary status would have until July 2019 to get their affairs in order 
and return home.

   The problem is that officials haven't told people with that status how to go 
about renewing it. Other groups eligible for similar status have received more 
lead time to re-register; the administration announced extensions for 
Nicaraguans and Hondurans last month and has already issued renewal guidelines 
for them.

   U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services wasn't able to release details 
about the re-registration process for Haitians sooner because officials had to 
work out the work authorization language, among other things.

   But Thursday's announcement will automatically extend the work permits for 
Haitians on temporary protected status through July, U.S. Citizenship and 
Immigration Services spokeswoman Sharon Scheidhauer said.

   And Haitian workers will be able to simply show employers the agency's 
Thursday notice as proof their work status is still valid until their new 
employment documents arrive, she added.

   Nevertheless, the bureaucratic slowdown "reinforces the message" that 
Haitians aren't welcome in America, says Geralde Gabeau, a Haitian immigrant 
who heads the Immigrant Family Services Institute, a Boston-based nonprofit 
that provide academic support to immigrant youths.

   "It goes hand-in-hand with what the president said last week," she said, 
referring to the closed-door meeting Trump held with U.S. senators during which 
he profanely disparaged African countries and asked why the U.S. would want 
more Haitians. "It's not just words. It's actions. They don't want Haitians 
here, so they're doing whatever they can to discourage them so that they go 
back to their country."

   At least in Boston, which has the nation's third-largest Haitian community 
after Miami and New York, the delays have already led to job losses, 
Fleurissaint said. Some Haitians working as porters, janitors and food service 
workers at Boston's Logan International Airport were let go this summer because 
they didn't receive new work permits before the most recent expiration date for 
temporary protected status, which was in July, he said.

   And a woman in Massachusetts was warned by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration 
Services this week that she wouldn't be able to re-enter the country if she 
attempted to attend her father's funeral in Haiti this weekend, Gabeau said.

   Haitians on temporary protected status could encounter other hurdles, like 
renewing their driver's licenses, says Sarang Sekhavat, director of federal 
policy at the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, or MIRA.

   Haitian community leaders are gathering lawyers to assist families as 
problems arise.

   "We're going to be fighting back," Gabeau said. "We will not stay silent. 
This is not acceptable."


(KA)

 
 
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