Children in Miami hold signs in support of renewing Temporary Protected Status for immigrants from Central America and Haiti, Nov. 6. PHOTO:LYNNE SLADKY/ASSOCIATED PRESS
The Trump Administration announced last month that it will rescind the visas of almost 59,000 Haitians who are legally documented under the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program. The visas were granted after an 8.0 earthquake in 2010 demolished the Caribbean country. The migrants have until July 2019 to leave unless they can qualify for another visa status.
The decision is no surprise given Donald Trump's views on immigration, and it's false advertising to call a program "temporary" and never end it. Yet if the Administration and Congress are putting America first, they ought to let these productive people stay in the U.S.
The TPS program began in 1990 to help undocumented foreign nationals who would face unsafe conditions upon return home due to natural disasters, armed conflict or other extraordinary conditions. It is available for individuals living in the U.S. before the event occurs. It doesn't open the U.S. to a flood of migrants after a crisis.
Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan also have TPS designation. Last month the administration announced that Nicaragua's TPS protection - granted in January 1999 after Hurrican Mitch - will end in January 2019.It covers migrants who have been here almost two decades and number around 5,300.TPS for Salvadorans, which began in March 2001 and has been extended through March 2018, covers 262,000 migrants. For 58,500 Hondurans protection has been extended to July 2018. Many of these immigrants are likely to stay in the U.S. illegally.
The Haitian difference is that it's far from clear that the country has recovered from the earthquake or recurring outbreaks of cholera brought to the country by a U.N. peacekeeping unit in 2010. In 2016 Hurrican Matthew (Category 4) set the country back again.
With almost a decade of legality under their belts, the Haitian migrants have put down roots in the U.S. Returninglikely would plunge them into poverty. Given that choice they are more likely to revert to living in the shadows as they did before the earthquake. That won't be good for tax collections or national security, which benefits from knowing the U.S. population.
Haitian global remittances amount to some 25% of Haiti's annual GDP and about half of that money comes from the U.S., according to the World Bank. This is the best kind of foreign aid because it doesn't go through the hands of corrupt politicians. It boosts economic stability, strengthens civil society and reduces the risk of refugee crises.
Yet retaining the TPS migrants is not about charity. Although the 676,000 Haitians living in the U.S. make up less than 2% of the foreign born population, they are an important part of the services workforce, especially in tourism and healthcare.
As the general manager of the InterContinental Miami - where about a dozen Haitians with TPS visas work - told The Wall Street Journal: "It's going to be difficult to replace all of those positions in the short term. The labor force in South Florida is already pretty tight." The U.S> educational investment in thousands of Haitian children over almost a decade also would be lost if families are returned.
Sometimes it's easy to identify the end of a crisis and halt TPS protection, as with the 2014 Ebola outbreak in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. But more often with recurring catastrophes, national recovery can take years.
Mr. Trump has discretion over when to end the program for any one country. Alternatively, Congress could alter the 1990 statute so that proven contributors to the U.S. economy would receive special consideration to stay permanently. Both decisions depend on whether these immigrants are viewed as assets or liabilities for America. We think they're assets.
Credit: The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board