Days before Thanksgiving, tens of thousands of Haitians legally here in the U.S., including many in New York, are facing deportation. The Trump administration is announcing that in 18 months it's ending a program giving them legal status that started after a devastating 2010 earthquake. Supporters of those being told to leave say it's mean-spirited. Our Josh Robin reports.
January 12, 2010: An earthquake measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale in Haiti.
By official count, 300,000 people died. Nine days later, the United States government protected Haitians who were in the U.S. at the time, reasoning they had no place to return.
Some say the island still isn't safe, although the government wants them to go back.
"You expect Haiti now to recover from that massive earthquake?" said Pastor Adlerette Kebreau of Jesus is Lord Ministry.
"It will be cruel to send people, including children, who lost their parents to Haiti," New York Rep. Nydia Velazquez said. "To where? There's no houses for the people in Haiti at this point."
Indeed, a U.N. report from earlier this year estimates a fifth of the population is in need. The CIA says Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
An estimated 320,000 people are in the United States protected under TPS status. In New York, that number is 15,000, and more than a third of them are from Haiti.
No one directly affected by the move spoke at a news conference Tuesday in Manhattan that denounced the Trump administration's decision to end TPS protection for Haitians in the country.
Officials said those of working age overwhelmingly have jobs, and the deportation threat raises the prospect that kids born to them in the U.S. may splinter families.
City Hall says free legal advice is available by calling 311.
"New York City remains a welcoming and safe city for all New Yorkers, including immigrants," said Bitta Mostofi, the acting commissioner for the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs. "Simply because of the change in Washington, we haven't changed. Our New York City values haven't changed."
But the Department of Homeland Security says Haiti has changed for the better after the quake.
"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. Haiti has also demonstrated a commitment to adequately prepare for when the country's TPS designation is terminated," a department spokesperson said.
We read that statement to Pastor Adlerette Kebreau, a community leader.
"A massive hurricane took place in Louisiana, and they still have not recovered. And this is the United States of America, the greatest country in the world," Kebreau responded. "How about Haiti?"