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Haitian Leaders In Miami Applaud TPS Extension, Seek Permanent Solution

Maimi Herald
Haitian-American community leader Marleine Bastien, center, marches with children in Miami.

Tens of thousands of Haitians with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) have been granted more time to stay in the Sunshine State, at least for now. TPS was extended this week for four groups in the U.S. – Salvadorans, Hondurans, Sudanese and Haitians. That will allow TPS holders from those countries to remain in the U.S. until Jan. 2, 2020.

In 2017, the Trump administration announced it was ending TPS for those four countries. Some 32,000 Haitian TPS holders live in Florida, many of whom are based in the Miami metro-area. Marleine Bastien, Executive Director of Family Action Network Movement (FANM), joined Sundial to discuss the extension.

 This has been edited lightly for clarity. 

WLRN: So what is your greatest concern?  

Bastien: The biggest concern is that these families have a temporary reprieve, that January 2nd, 2020, is fast coming. And families, they were happy with the news, but they're still concerned about not having a permanent solution. I mean people understand that this is again temporary, that this isn't fixed now. We want to make sure that they understand that. At a press event on the 28th, we did indicate that. Some of the TPS recipients who spoke at this press event did allude to the fact that it is still temporary, that it is about time for Congress to act. And that's why we, at FAMN, we are pushing for Congress to introduce a bill March 12 combining TPS and DACA because both groups have a lot in common.

If we reach the deadline and it happens, what are [TPS holders] telling you [they will do]?

Well, I think they will consider every option to protect their families, to keep their families together. What I can tell you for sure is that I've yet to meet a family member who would leave their children behind. Whatever decision that they make, they will have to take their children with them. And then there is an estimated 275,000 to half a million children involved here. So this is something to consider. If a permanent solution is not found we could witness the biggest mass deportation of U.S. born children to nations in turmoil. So when they talk to me, they don't talk to me about going somewhere. They talk to me, to us, about their hopes, their yearnings and their hopes for the future.

Thinking about what legal recourse any of these folks have, as you said, you're talking to them about all the different possibilities. But I remember talking to you the last time, that everybody's got a different situation and a different story.

Every case is different. That is why it is so important for people to go to someone who is qualified like an immigration lawyer. In this case for example, you don't need to do anything if you've already re-registered for TPS. You don't need to do anything, your work permit will be automatically renewed. But everybody has a story (that) is different, which is why we ask you to go to Catholic Charities, come to FAMN, go to people who know what they are doing. Don't listen to the notaries and people who are asking you for money. Because in this specific case, there is no money to spend, your work permit will be automatically renewed and people will know.

Are there people out there trying to scam? 

We are already getting calls to our center. 'Is it true that we have to we renew our work permit?' 'Is it true that we have to file again?' No. If you already renewed you don't have to do anything. If you did not register, you can register now.

Chris knew he wanted to work in public radio beginning in middle school, as WHYY played in his car rides to and from school in New Jersey. He’s freelanced for All Things Considered and was a desk associate for CBS Radio News in New York City. Most recently, he was producing for Capital Public Radio’s Insight booking guests, conducting research and leading special projects at Sacramento’s NPR affiliate.