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  • Haitian migrants wait outside the immigration office in the Mexican city of Tapachula on their way to the U.S. on Nov. 16, 2016.

    Haitian migrants wait outside the immigration office in the Mexican city of Tapachula on their way to the U.S. on Nov. 16, 2016. | Photo: Reuters

Published 9 May 2017

Inquiries about criminal activities of those under the Temporary Protected Status program have not occurred under any previous administration.

An investigation by the Associated Press has found that the United States government is chucking orthodoxy out the window when it comes to Haitian immigrants by plowing through records to hunt for data on criminal activity in order to decide whether they should be allowed to stay, under the protection of the Temporary Protected Status program.

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Internal emails of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, USCIS, obtained by the AP revealed that the Trump administration had made inquiries into the community’s criminal history. The emails also showed the agency’s newly appointed policy chief demanding to know how many of the 50,000 Haitians enrolled in the Temporary Protected Status program were taking advantage of public benefits, benefits they are not even eligible to receive.

Maria Odom, a former Citizenship and Immigration Services ombudsman who served in the Obama administration, told AP she was puzzled by the inquiries about criminal activities. She stated that the government already checks criminal histories of applicants and denies protections to those who have violated U.S. laws.

“You should not craft a humanitarian policy based on the few,” Odom said.

The program is intended for people escaping war or disaster, where it grants temporary protected status for said migrants to live in the United States, and is only revoked when conditions in the immigrant’s home country have improved. Haitians were brought into the program in 2010 when an earthquake devastated the region, killing as many as 300,000 people.

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But emails now suggest Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly is looking at other criteria to decide whether the program will be extended to protect Haitians again, as protection for the community expires on July 22, with eligibility for Haitians extended several times in the past. The Trump administration must decide by May 23 so that it will be able to provide 60 days’ notice about its plans.

While the Homeland Security Department and Kelly have not made a final decision, USCIS’s acting director, James McCament, has recommended letting the program expire, saying that Haiti is no longer unstable despite a U.N.-fueled cholera crisis, an epidemic of rape against Haitian women by U.N. peacekeepers, and poverty due to decades of Western imperial meddling.

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