Advocates for immigrants say they will ask Congress to grant permanent residence to the nearly 60,000 Haitians who are living in the United States under temporary protection that the Trump administration announced will expire in July 2019.
They are not hopeful, CASA spokeswoman Fernanda Durand said. But few alternatives exist to halt the deportation of Haitians who have been allowed to stay here since an earthquake devastated the impoverished Caribbean nation in 2010.
“These people have been making contributions to the local and national economy,” Durand said. “They have been a very active and thriving part of our economy. For us to take that away for no good reason is ridiculous and cruel.”
An estimated 1,500 undocumented Haitians live in Maryland, according to the Center for Migration Studies.
There are an estimated 23,000 people of 10 nations, including many Haitians, in the Temporary Protected Status program in Maryland, the sixth-largest such contingent in the United States.
The Trump administration ended TPS for Hondurans earlier this month. Next up are Salvadorans. Maryland is home to 20,000, by far the largest group in the state. The administration is expected to make a decision on their status in January.
Advocates for immigrants, lawmakers of both parties and the government of Haitian President Jovenel Moise all asked the White House to extend the program for Haitians. But the Department of Homeland Security said conditions in Haiti have improved significantly since the earthquake, and the number of displaced Haitians has fallen by 97 percent.
"Haiti is able to safely receive traditional levels of returned citizens," the department said in a statement Monday.
Haiti remains one of the poorest nations in the world. More than 2.5 million people, roughly a quarter of the population, live on less than $1.23 a day.
CASA has scheduled a demonstration for Dec. 9 at the U.S. Capitol.
Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, both Maryland Democrats, sponsored legislation last week to create a path to residence for the people protected under the program. It is not expected to advance in a Republican-led Congress that has struggled to approve its own priorities.
Cardin said Tuesday that ending protections for Haitians “will have a devastating impact on American and Haitian families, and further destabilize Haiti, a country still recovering from natural disasters and man-made political crises.”
Rep. Elijah E. Cummings said he was “appalled” by the move to end the protection for Haitians.
“I urge the administration to reconsider this decision,” the Baltimore Democrats said.
Members of the Baltimore-area Haitian group Komite Ayiti — Haitian Creole for “Haiti Committee” — are worried about themselves and friends and relatives, President Garry Bienaime said.
Komite Ayiti, which has about 200 members from around the state, hosts monthly happy hours at which attendees can learn to speak Creole, dances, cookouts and other events celebrating the Haitian language, food and culture.
While Komite Ayiti members plan to attend the demonstration, Bienaime said, many are fearful to speak publicly about the situation because they don’t want to draw attention to themselves at a time when their future is uncertain.
“We’re very disappointed in the Trump Administration’s decision,” Bienaime said. “We were hoping for a positive dialogue that will positively impact all of the [Temporary Protected Status] individuals, including the Haitians in organizations in the Baltimore area.”
The program allowed the mother-in-law of Baltimore City Councilman Kristerfer Burnett’s to come to the United States after she was injured in the earthquake. Burnett’s wife is a first-generation Haitian-American, and their family spends New Year’s Day at the annual Haitian Independence Day celebration in Washington every year.
The Caribbean nation has suffered a cholera outbreak and hurricane damage this year. Burnett said the White House should focus on other issues.
“For me it’s deeply troubling that it would be something the administration would prioritize among the other things that we need to get done in this country,” Burnett said.
Baltimore Sun reporter John Fritze and the Associated Press contributed to this article.