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Experts can comment on Haiti, US immigration policy

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

LAWRENCE – The move announced Nov. 20 by the Trump administration to cut off Temporary Protected Status for 60,000 Haitian immigrants will harm Haitians living in the United States and on the island itself, according to leading academic experts on the country.

University of Kansas professors Cécile Accilien and Cecilia Menjívar are available today to discuss the ramifications of the new policy.

Cecile Accilien is director of KU’s Institute of Haitian Studies, associate director of the Center for Latin American & Caribbean Studies and associate professor of African and African-American studies. She is available by telephone today for interviews. To arrange an interview with Accilien, contact KU News Service Public Affairs Officer Rick Hellman, 785-864-8852 or rick_hellman@ku.edu.

“I believe that ending the temporary protected status for at least 60,000 Haitians will be detrimental to the Haitian-American community as well as Haitians in Haiti,” Accilien said. “These decisions cannot be easily undone once they are taken. Haiti is still struggling from the 2010 earthquake, the cholera epidemic, Hurricane Matthew (2016) and ongoing political and economic instability.

“The majority of people who are not connected to Haiti in a tangible way do not realize how the impact is still felt almost eight years after the earthquake. More recently in 2017, Hurricane Irma also affected Haiti, although we did not hear much about it since the damage to Puerto Rico was much more devastating,” she said.

“The Florida Immigrant Coalition is currently working with local organizations such as Dwa Fanm to organize various activist groups around immigration issues. Dwa fanm means Women’s Rights in Haitian Creole. It is an organization whose main objective is to empower women and girls.

“The ending of temporary protected status affects all 60,0000 Haitian immigrants, but women and children among them are particularly vulnerable. In the months and years after the 2010 earthquake, there were hundreds of women and young girls who were ongoing victims of rape and sexual violence due to their living conditions in makeshift camps, especially in Port-au-Prince. Rape and sexual violence are ongoing issues in Haiti due to poverty, instability and a culture that victimized women who are sexually assaulted. Sending women and children to Haiti, where there is a lack of infrastructure in terms of housing and jobs, will be detrimental to their mental, emotional and physical well-being. Many organizations in the Miami area are working together to prepare rallies and demonstrations in the next few days.”

Accilien is the author of “Rethinking Marriage in Francophone African and Caribbean Literatures” (Lexington Books, 2008). She has also co-edited and contributed to two collections of essays, “Revolutionary Freedoms: A History of Survival, Strength and Imagination in Haiti” (Caribbean Studies Press, 2006) and “Just Below South: Intercultural Performance in the Caribbean and the U.S. South” (University of Virginia Press, 2007).

Cecilia Menjívar, Foundation Distinguished Professor of Sociology and co-leader of the KU Center for Migration Research, is an expert on U.S.-bound migration policy and on how laws and the legal context in countries that receive immigrants, particularly from Central America, influence their lives. In June 2017, she led research for a national report that found immigrants on Temporary Protected Status generally do better than undocumented immigrants in educational attainment and civic engagement in their communities.

The report noted the ways TPS helps immigrants from Haiti, Somalia and other countries integrate into life in the United States, but it also pointed out challenges for immigrants because they also are not eligible for full citizenship.

"They are integrated socially in their communities, and they also have to renew their work permits, keep clean criminal records and are well-behaved," Menjívar said. "So, for practical purposes, they are members of society, except for that one very important piece."

She briefed congressional staff members about the report's findings as U.S. Homeland Security officials are considering the TPS program's future with U.S. immigration policy and whether to renew it, as many agreements with countries are set to expire in 2017 and 2018.

Menjívar has led numerous studies and authored dozens of articles and policy reports on topics that include immigrant integrationdeportation policymedia portrayals of immigrantsconditions at immigrant detention centers and how awareness of immigration law influences students.

To arrange an interview with Menjívar, contact KU News Service Public Affairs Officer George Diepenbrock at 785-864-8853 or gdiepenbrock@ku.edu.