San Diego Haitian community in limbo after presidential decision to end TPS program

Refugees fled Haiti after 2010 earthquake
Posted at 10:33 AM, Nov 22, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-22 13:33:09-05

President Trump's decision to end the Temporary Protection Status for almost than 60,000 refugees from Haiti has San Diego refugees in limbo.

"I feel disappointed," said Pastor Jean Elise Durandisse, from the Christ United Methodist Ministry Center. "But at the same time, I feel grateful."

Durandisse said his church serves about 100 members of the Haitian community in San Diego. He estimates there are anywhere from 1-2000 of them in total. Many came to the United States after an earthquake devastated the country in 2010.

Since then, they've gotten Temporary Protection Status, allowing them provisional residency in the US. But the Trump administration decided to end the program, giving them 18 months to leave the country. The Department of Homeland Security says the country is ready to welcome back its people.

Durandisse said that's a good thing. Until the ruling, the current TPS exemption would have ended on January 1, 2018. He says his community plans to use the next 18 months to fight to stay.

"It's a heartless decision," he said.

Durandisse said members of his church have integrated into the community.

"We've been here 7 years. They've gotten jobs, had children, pay taxes. Now they expect us to just go back? That would be a disaster for Haiti," he added.

Durandisse said their home country couldn't handle that kind of influx of people right now. Subsequent natural disasters have made rebuilding difficult, and he says the government in Haiti is still dysfunctional.

"We have 18 months," he said, "We'll work the ground, pray, do whatever we can to make sure we talk to our elected officials to see, after 18 months, what they can do for us."