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Administration To Decide Whether To Renew Haitians' Protected Status

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

President Trump's administration soon decides the fate of some 50000 Haitians living in the U.S. They're here under temporary protected status or less which is meant to temporarily allow American residency for people who came from places that are not safe to return to. Haiti's been one of those countries officially since a 2010 earthquake and now the president decides whether to extend that designation. Marleine Bastien is executive director of the advocacy group Haitian Women of Miami. She joins us via Skype.

Welcome to the program.

MARLEINE BASTIEN: Good morning, Steve. And thank you for having me.

INSKEEP: What if the president does not extend that temporary residency status for Haitians?

BASTIEN: That will mean that 58,000 families who have been living here for an average of seven and a half years with U.S.-born children will be forced to return to a nation in turmoil, as we know right now, as a result of the remnants of the 2010 earthquake and the recent storm, which wreaked havoc in the south peninsula, creating food shortage and all. It would be very, very difficult for them.

INSKEEP: That does sound very difficult. But I imagine someone listening might note it's called temporary protected status. It's supposed to end sometime. Have people not known that they'd be going home someday?

BASTIEN: It's supposed to end, but now is not the time. And it is - instead of looking into terminating it and uprooting these families who have, you know, made their lives here, built their lives here, built businesses, bought homes here, it's better - it is smarter and better to look for a more permanent solution for these families. Uprooting them right now will be devastating. It will be a disaster.

INSKEEP: Do you think the more permanent solution is they just stay in the United States? After all, it's been seven years since that earthquake.

BASTIEN: Of course. It is, not only for these - for Haitians who have been living here under TPS but also for those who have been in this country for 30 - 15, 30 years and are contributing financially, socially and politically. These immigrants, they work hard. They pay taxes. They contribute to building our economy. So we should be proactive, bring more humanity to our immigration policies and then create a space for them to remain here legally versus dividing their families and wreaking havoc in their lives.

INSKEEP: When...

BASTIEN: That's the humane thing to do and smart and humane thing to do.

INSKEEP: When you talk with some folks who are - who have this status, what kinds of things do you hear? What questions do you get asked?

BASTIEN: Well, they are wondering whether to close their businesses, put their houses for sale - on for sale. And most importantly, they ask about their U.S.-born children. What are we going to do? It is a very heart-wrenching question for parents who walk into our office, our FANM office in Little Haiti, in droves wanting to know, what are we to do? Are we going to be forced to be separated from our sons and daughters, who are - those in college, it is a very difficult situation for them right now.

INSKEEP: And in just five seconds or so - to clarify, when you're talking about people you meet in Miami, they ask about closing businesses and selling houses, which means they're people who own businesses and own houses. They're not, like, desperately on relief necessarily.

BASTIEN: Not necessarily. They are - they are taxpaying, hardworking individuals with strong work ethics. And that is why Disney World came out in support of their 500 or more workers.

INSKEEP: Marleine Bastien, executive director of Haitian Women of Miami, thanks very much.

BASTIEN: Thank you, Steve. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.