Lehigh Valley

Lehigh Valley Haitian immigrants worry after Trump decision

LEHIGH VALLEY, Pa. - President Trump is ending the protective status for nearly 60 thousand Haitian immigrants in the U.S.

That means many face deportation if they do not find another way to stay in the country.

Local immigration officials say they have seen a spike in calls from Haitians who have been here legally for years and are now worrying about what to do next.
Every Tuesday you'll find Haitian American Jude Denis outside the offices of elected officials championing various issues.

"TPS status for Haitians hits close to home for me," said Denis.

But on Tuesday it was even more personal.

Denis is distressed by the Trump administration's decision to end the temporary protective status for 59,000 Haitians in 2019, which means those people who are living and working legally in the U.S. could now be deported.

"I have family members in New York City who would be impacted," said Denis.

Denis isn't alone.

Local immigration officials say Pennsylvania has 1400 Haitians with TPS designations and estimate about 10 to 20 percent of them live in the Lehigh Valley.

"Clients are calling and people who weren't clients are calling," said Attorney Raymond Lahoud.
Lahoud says the status was granted in 2010 after a massive earthquake rocked Haiti and the country could not handle re-entry of Haitians who came to the U.S.

"That gives about a year and a half for these individuals from Haiti to look for other forms of relief to stay in the U.S.," said Lahoud.

Denis says deporting TPS Haitians would mean sending them to a country that hasn't recovered from the earthquake or two hurricanes that followed.

"We have always looked to America as a place of hope and opportunity and what this is saying is that we are closing the door on hope and opportunity," said Denis.

Lahoud says the Trump administration has also ended the designation for Nicaragua and Sudan.

He says there are seven other countries that will likely follow.

Lahoud says for immigrants, the best advice is to seek legal counsel as soon as possible.

The Trump administration points out the Temporary Protective Status was meant to be temporary, not permanent.

According to a Homeland Security statement, the TPS designation for Haiti was removed because conditions on the island nation have changed.

“Since the 2010 earthquake, the number of displaced people in Haiti has decreased by 97 percent,” the statement said.

“Significant steps have been taken to improve the stability and quality of life for Haitian citizens, and Haiti is able to safely receive traditional levels of returned citizens.”

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