John Kelly, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, has told the 58,000 Haitians living in the U.S. under Temporary Protective Status to get their travel documents in order and be prepared to leave in six months. The TPS allows these Haitians to work, drive and pay taxes in the U.S.
Kelly claims that the economy and social conditions in Haiti have improved so much that this is a reasonable time limit. But his order is widely condemned as unjustifiably short by the Haitian community. Conditions in Haiti are still dire in many ways.
While the rubble from the 2005 earthquake has finally been cleared, the tens of thousands of houses destroyed in the quake have not been replaced. Housing all over Haiti is in desperately short supply.
Cholera, introduced into Haiti by United Nations forces in 2010, will remain even when Minustah, the military occupation of Haiti under U.N. command, is replaced in October by a smaller “police” force. The cholera epidemic killed close to 9,000 Haitians, with hundreds of thousands sickened. All that had a consequently profound impact on the economy.
In 2016, Hurricane Matthew devastated Haiti’s breadbasket in the southwest, its most productive agricultural area. Nine hundred people died and tens of thousands lost their homes. Roads, bridges and all kinds of economically necessary facilities were either damaged or destroyed. Food prices in Haiti spiked; high prices have continued..
The government of Haiti controls the price and distribution of gas and diesel. In May, it significantly raised the price of these items — more than 60 percent for gasoline. This will produce an additional general price rise in all manner of goods, from rice to oil and toilet paper.
Since May Day, the textile workers at the maquiladoras in the Sonapi Industrial Park in Port-au-Prince have risen up and been joined by workers in the Caracol Industrial Park on the northcast coast near the Dominican Republic border.
These workers are demanding that the minimum wage for garment manufacturing be more than doubled, from 300 gourdes to 800 gourdes a day — 300 gourdes come to less than $5 U.S. and 800 gourdes come to around $13 U.S..
Factory owners are opposed to the increase on the grounds that it will reduce Haiti’s attractiveness to investment in “low-cost” manufactured goods. They want the so-called Superior Council of Salaries to maintain the current low-wage schedule.
But the workers have taken to the streets and confronted the policies and the cops.
Protests have grown so intense and militant that the bosses have had to close the plants from time to time over the past two weeks. President Jovenel Moïse gave a televised address on May 25 urging a “dialog” between the bosses and the workers.
Meanwhile, the tens of thousands of Haitian-Dominicans expelled from the Dominican Republic in the past two years are stuck in camps on the Dominican-Haitian border. The Haitian economy still has not been able to absorb them.
For the U.S. head of Homeland Security to declare the economy of Haiti has “improved” ignores the hundreds of workers already in the streets who are protesting being paid less than $5 a day, It also ignores the fact that 25 percent of Haiti’s gross domestic product comes from money sent home from its workers in the U.S. According to the World Bank, this is the highest percentage of any Latin American, Central American or Caribbean country. (tinyurl.com/y76quypw)
If the U.S. expels the 58,000 Haitians now living under TPS protection, it will be another act in the long line of U.S. crimes against Haiti, dating back to the first U.S. blockade imposed on the country in 1804, when the Haitian people won their independence from slavery and colonialism.
One small act of reparation would be to grant Indefinite Temporary Protective Status in the U.S. to any Haitian who wants TPS. It is their right.