The City Council Just Took a Stand in Support of Boston’s Haitian Immigrants

They could be sent back unless Trump acts to protect them.

Photo via iStock/Pixonian

Boston’s City Council voted Wednesday to call on the Trump administration to protect the thousands of Haitians living in Massachusetts, who may be sent home if their immigration status is allowed to expire.

UniversalHub reports the vote, held at a Wednesday hearing, was unanimous.

The Haitian immigrants have been here since the U.S. offered temporary protected status (TPS) to those displaced by a deadly earthquake in the Caribbean nation in 2010. That status needs to be extended every 18 months, which President Obama continued to do during his term. A decision from the Department of Homeland Security is due Tuesday, May 23. Their status expires in July.

“What people have to understand is that the Haitian TPS holders are hard workers,” Councilor Tim McCarthy said at the hearing, according to UniversalHub. “Let’s stand up for neighbors, our loved ones, our city,” said Council President Michelle Wu said.

There are about 4,000 Haitians living around Boston under the TPS program, and nearly 60,000 nationwide. Advocates say forcing them to return to a country still dealing with the fallout from the earthquake—as well as an outbreak of cholera and a shortage of food—is both inhumane and unnecessary. They argue that the Haitians are not a drain on state or city resources, and councilors today pointed to the fact that they contribute about $40 million in taxes here each year. The Globe also reported this weekend that the state’s Haitian population makes up a large portion of workers in the state’s home health industry, and that many have raised families and bought homes here over the last seven years.

Regardless, according to an AP report last week, leaked emails show federal immigration officials have quietly sought to dig up examples of crimes committed by Haitians in order to bolster the case for expelling them. The officials also sought information about the impact of the TPS recipients on welfare programs, the AP reports, even though they are not eligible for those benefits.

It’s not clear how much of an impact the City Council’s move will have on the White House, which has also made so-called “sanctuary cities” like Boston a target of its ire. Also this year, the City Council voted to affirm the sanctuary status of Boston Public Schools.

But pressure is mounting as next week’s deadline looms. A bipartisan group of politicians, among them both Florida Republican Marco Rubio and Massachusetts Democrat Ed Markey, have advocated for an extension. So has the Globe twice on its editorial page, framing the decision on whether to let the migrants stay, or kick them out, “a critical litmus test for the temporary protected status program, [and] also a telling statement about American values.”

Massachusetts General Maura Healey and state Senator Linda Dorcena Forry have also spoken out. They sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly yesterday arguing that if the government does not extend Haitians’ TPS status it “would tear families apart and send productive individuals back to a country currently unable to provide for their needs.”

Mayor Marty Walsh sent letters to both Kelly and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. “The Haitian diaspora has enriched and strengthened our City in immeasurable ways,” read the letters, which note that 16,000 Haitians live in Boston. “It is our moral imperative as Americans to stand with those in need, and I urge you to exercise your discretion to extend TPS for Haitians until they can safely return to Haiti.”

Letters supporting the Haitians here via TPS have been signed by faith leaders and doctors around the country, including many in Boston.