Immigrants in U.S. seeking safe haven worry Trump may send them back
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Thousands of Salvadorans, Haitians and others now sheltered in the United States from danger in their home countries might have to leave under a crackdown the Trump administration is weighing on a program that critics slam as “back-door” immigration.
People close to the administration said the White House is considering anti-immigration activists’ appeals for pull-back on the 27-year old U.S. Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program, which protects more than 300,000 people in the country.
“There’s no question people inside the administration want to reform the excesses,” said Roy Beck, president of NumbersUSA, a group that seeks to reduce immigration into the United States.
“We have definitely expressed our opinions to the administration. This time there actually are people willing to listen,” Beck said in a telephone interview.
Officials at the State Department and Department of Homeland Security would not comment on administration plans for TPS.
The White House did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
President Donald Trump campaigned last year on a promise to deport large numbers of immigrants, a racially-tinged political theme that won him passionate support among some U.S. voters.
Since he took office in January, Trump has moved to ban U.S. entry by people from select Muslim countries. He also announced the end next March of an Obama-era program giving temporary legal status to “Dreamers” brought illegally into the United States as children, unless Congress revives it.
Now immigration advocacy groups fear Trump will curtail TPS by refusing to renew the protected status of some of the nine countries covered: El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
Last month, Sudan was slated for TPS termination, effective November 2018. Immigration groups were heartened somewhat that South Sudan’s status was renewed in September through mid-2019.
Advocacy groups said they are also concerned Trump might seek legislative changes making it harder to designate TPS countries.
Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), which also seeks to reduce overall immigration, said the administration is assessing each country’s status. “In the past it was routine renewal,” he said.
FAIR would be “open” to TPS continuing, Mehlman said, but only with assurances that participation is temporary and “not a 20-year stay.”
Several immigration advocacy groups said officials within the administration have told them significant changes to TPS were being debated among agencies and the White House.
In July, Trump’s Department of Homeland Security fired a warning shot when it renewed Haiti’s designation for only six months instead of the typical 18 months. “During this six-month extension, beneficiaries are encouraged to prepare for their return to Haiti in the event Haiti’s designation is not extended again,” the department warned.
TEMPORARY OR PERMANENT?
Critics have complained the program allows participants to repeatedly extend their stays in 6-18 month increments in case of a natural disaster, civil strife or other emergencies in their homelands.
Haiti, for example, has had TPS designation for seven years; El Salvador for 16 years. “It’s not TPS, it is PPS, Permanent Protected Status,” Beck said. “The chance of someone having to leave is closer to the chance of being struck by lightning.”
Michelle Brane, director of migrant rights at the Women’s Refugee Commission in New York, acknowledged TPS needs repair, but warned that if Trump forced thousands of Salvadorans to go home, they would be easy targets of gang violence after years of living in the United States and raising families.
Many of them “have kids who are U.S. citizens, but it could push the families underground” if parents lose their work permits and face deportation, she said.
Paul Altidor, Haiti’s ambassador to the United States, said in a telephone interview that his government is asking the Trump administration for an 18-month extension, citing an ongoing cholera outbreak and destruction from recent hurricanes.
“These people have been strung along,” said Matt Adams, legal director for the Seattle-based Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, disputing the critics who say TPS was not meant to provide protection for a decade or more.
He said TPS participants have had their hopes raised and then dashed as repeated attempts in Congress to update the TPS program have sputtered, while past administrations have carved out programs for some groups of immigrants by granting them permanent legal status.
Adams said that in the event of a crackdown, some people, such as those married to U.S. citizens, will have other legal ways to stay.
But he said many of his clients, including entire families, will have their lives “thrown into chaos.”
Reporting By Richard Cowan; Additional reporting by Makini Brice, Yeganeh Torbati and Jeff Mason; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and David Gregorio
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
The Republic of Haiti has launched an international contest to rebuild its ruined National Palace in Port-au-Prince
Open to locals and international teams led by a Haiti-based practice, the competition seeks proposals to rebuild the former official residence of the president of Haiti, which was reduced to ruins by a major earthquake seven years ago.
The winning team will reconstruct the 1920 structure and submit proposals to rehabilitate its former functions, deliver new administrative spaces, upgrade the site layout and regenerate the wider Champ-de-Mars district.
Announcing the contest, Haitian president Jovenel Moïse said: ‘The new National Palace must make the link between history, culture and the future of the nation. The realisation of a work of this magnitude requires dialogue and communication with citizens to hear their opinions and develop their sense of ownership of all stages of reconstruction.
‘We must learn all the lessons of the 12 January earthquake and [be] vigilant in order to take into account all construction safety standards. The architecture of the palace has made many generations dream [and I want] to reconstruct the exterior facades of the palace in the same way. But inside, there is a need for new accommodations to meet the needs of the organs and services of the presidency of the republic while respecting the construction of a public building.’
USAID Awards Million to World Food Program
for Food Security in Haiti
U.S. Embassy Haiti Chargé d’Affaires Robin Diallo Visits WFP Food Warehouse
Port-au-Prince, October 13, 2017- Haiti ranks third globally among countries most affected by extreme weather events. This year alone, less than a year after the devastating Hurricane Matthew, the country was affected by two major hurricanes—Irma and Maria—that brushed past Haiti’s northern coast, causing flooding. A well-prepared and immediate response is needed in order to prevent food shortages and hunger which can often follow a large-scale disaster.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has awarded million to the World Food Program (WFP) in Haiti, to help distribute food more quickly in the aftermath of a disaster. The support helps WFP cut out what can be a lengthy contracting process with stand-by procurement agreements with regional food suppliers who can rapidly stock WFP warehouses with enough commodities to feed as many as 150,000 people for one month.
U.S. Embassy Haiti Chargé d’Affaires Robin Diallo thanked the Government of Haiti and WFP for continued collaboration with the U.S. government as she toured the WFP food warehouse in Port-au-Prince on October 13, 2017.
“We rely on the strength of our partnerships with the Government of Haiti and with organizations like the World Food Program—especially as we share common goals of achieving fast and efficient emergency response and increased social protection for Haitians during times of natural disaster and other crises,” Diallo said. “The USAID Haiti Mission’s Food for Peace (FFP) office has worked diligently on this significant award to WFP to help increase food security via better preparedness to reduce the time it can take to get food to those in need following a disaster,” she said.
Diallo’s visit to the warehouse served to officially announce continued United States support just a few days before World Food Day on October 16. Others accompanying Diallo on her visit to the WFP food warehouse included USAID Mission Director, Jene Thomas, Deputy Mission Director Alexious Butler, Food for Peace Acting Office Chief, Lawrence Oroma, and FFP Deputy Office Chief Sebastian Milardo. World Food Program Haiti Country Director, Ronald Tran Ba Huy, hosted the USAID visit.
STATE SENATOR DAPHNE CAMPBELL ANNOUNCES 0,000.00 APPROPRIATION FOR MIAMI GARDENS MUSEUM
October 19, Miami Gardens FL - This year, the Miami Gardens based African Museum of Arts and Culture (AMAC) has been awarded a state allocation for the sum of 0,000.00 (five hundred thousand dollars).
The awards presentation scheduled for Thursday October 19, 2017 will be held at 2:00 PM on the campus of Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens.
Marking the second year of appropriation to the organization from a request originated by Senator Campbell, the allocation is considered a milestone towards achieving the mission of creating a center that is designed to be a magnet for culture, tourism and economic activity in the area.
The 2017-2018 appropriation request was sponsored in the house by State Rep. Cynthia Stafford and supported by Senator Oscar Braynon, II. The original land for the museum was donated by the Miami Dade Board of County Commissioners upon the request of District 1 Commissioner Barbara Jordan.
The African Museum of Arts and Culture is a planned, state of the art multipurpose facility for the educational, cultural, economic, and social enrichment of the citizens of the city of Miami Gardens, Florida, and residents of Miami Dade County and its visitors. The facility will house and exhibit art and cultural artifacts, including programming, production and presentations of art, music, dance and related disciplines.
Haiti looks to Benin for guidance on voodoo crimes
AFP•October 9, 2017
Cotonou (AFP) - Three senators from Haiti pause in reflection in front of a statue of their country's independence hero Toussaint Louverture in Allada, southern Benin, where he had his roots.
The West African and Caribbean countries, separated by thousands of kilometres (miles) and ocean, share the same history but also the same religion -- voodoo.
Jean Renel Senatus, Jean-Marie Junior Salomon and Ronald Lareche came to Benin late last month on a research trip as part of Haiti's reforms of its 19th-century penal code.
Part of the process is taking advice from countries where their ancestors lived before they were shipped abroad as slaves.
Historically and culturally, "Haiti and Benin are two sides of the same coin," Senatus, a lawyer and president of Haiti's Senate justice commission, told AFP.
"We want to adapt these texts to modern-day life and we're here to see how Benin handles irrational phenomena in law," he said after placing flowers on Louverture's statue.
Benin -- giant Nigeria's tiny western neighbour -- is one of the cradles of voodoo, where it is an official religion and has millions of followers.
The cult of the invisible and natural spirits travelled across the Atlantic Ocean from the 18th century, as millions of West Africans were transported to the New World as slaves.
- 'Zombification' -
The very word "voodoo" typically conjures up a raft of cliches, not least dolls covered in pins.
But certain phenomena are a concern for politicians and has prompted them to wonder: how should a country legislate for crimes linked to the religion?
With zombification, for example, Haitian voodoo priests are said to administer a powder to the victim giving the appearance of clinical death.
The supposed deceased -- exhumed with the help of an undertaker -- can then be exploited in its weakened, semi-conscious state.
Salomon, the vice-president of Haiti's Senate, said zombification "is the fact of being declared dead and openly buried and then 'brought back to life'.
"What's different is that the person 'brought back' then works like a slave."
In working class areas and remote communities in Haiti where there is no confidence in local justice, zombification is a way of settling scores with enemies.
In Benin, the same method exists but for a very different purpose.
"It is used by those initiated in the secret ways of the temples to strengthen their power but they keep an antidote to hand," said Honorat Aguessy, a Beninese sociologist.
In Benin, "voodoo is for good"," he added.
Some people in Benin still use charms to get rid of a rival -- but the weapon stays largely hidden and for lack of evidence, the country has not legislated against occult practices.
Traditional justice, however, still plays a big role in society through the use of traditional rulers.
- Voodoo chief -
In Allada, the three senators met the traditional monarch, Kpodegbe Djigla. "He told us that he is asked to judge certain cases," said Senatus.
Traditional rulers resolve many land disputes because they know local history. Villages have a council of sages comprising elders, community leaders and a voodoo chief.
"It often deals with complaints linked to custom, for example if a widow who is not supposed to leave her house at a certain time does it anyway," said lawyer Sandrine Aholou.
In her work, Aholou sees a mix of the two legal systems: "On the one hand, the civilian justice system accepts traditional justice on the other.
"Tradition influences modern law."
Most of the time, decisions taken by the elders are respected, to the astonishment of the Haitian senators.
For Salomon, it's a question of culture. "Here, people respect tradition," he said.
"In our country, because of the influence of modern life and proximity to the United States, we've abandoned it."