Activist: Haitians with protected status in hiding after Tillerson letter

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DEER PARK -

A recent letter sent by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson advising the Department of Homeland Security to take away protections given to those with temporary protection status (TPS) is forcing some Haitians on Long Island into hiding, according to one activist.

The immigration program shielded Haitians and other Central American communities from deportation because of humanitarian crises in their home countries. New York is home to 26,000 TPS recipients. 

Tillerson argues that the reasons those protections were issued no longer justify the program.   

Haitians had been granted TPS since 2010, when an earthquake destroyed much of the island. Marie Senat, a Haitian activist who lives in Deer Park, told News 12 that she can't imagine people being sent back there.

"People who have kids who have TPS, they don't send their children to school. Everybody is concerned…They don't know when they're going to grab them in the street and send them home," said Senat. 

Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) wants an 18-month extension of the program, saying he's working with lawmakers across the aisle to make it happen.

"There is still uncertainty, there is still violence going on in parts of those countries," said Rep. King. "We face the fact that, for whatever reason, we now have people who could be living here 20 years. As far as they're concerned and their children are concerned, they are Americans."

Senat said renewing TPS is important in the short-term, but she wants to see a long-term solution.

"I think they should find an amnesty," she says. 

The Department of Homeland Security has until Thanksgiving Day to make a decision on TPS for Haitians.

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