USCIS Director who Removed “Nation of Immigrants” from Mission Found Directly Contradicting Agency’s Report

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 17, 2018

Contacts: Sejal Zota, szota@nipnlg.org, 617-227-9727 x108
B. Loewe, bloewe@onpoint.pro, 773-791-4668

(New York, NY) – Documents released today as a result of Freedom of Information Act litigation present new evidence in the multiple lawsuits accusing the Trump administration of racial animus and violation of required procedures in its cancellation of temporary protected status for Haitians.

While the official October 2017 report by US Citizenship and Immigration Services leads, “[m]any of the conditions prompting the original January 2010 TPS designation persist, and the country remains vulnerable…,” the director of that agency, Lee Francis Cissna, wrote the opposite in his recommendation, “Haiti… no longer continues to meet the conditions for designation.”

"DHS’ decision to terminate TPS for Haiti is manifestly contrary to the evidence reflected in this report."
Sejal Zota, NIPNLG

“DHS’ decision to terminate TPS for Haiti is manifestly contrary to the evidence reflected in this report,” explains Sejal Zota, legal director of the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild. The FOIA suit being litigated by NIP and co-counsel, NYU Immigrant Rights Clinic, will likely produce thousands more pages of documents expected to inform the recently filed lawsuit seeking an injunction to stop what the suit claims was the illegal decision to terminate Haitians’ TPS status.

The newly revealed documents, where not redacted, show that the Trump Administration had full knowledge of the extraordinary risks and instability that continue to exist on the island.

Attorneys in the case say that it is further evidence that the White House did not perform a good-faith review of the conditions and that other factors -- such as the long-term hostility toward immigrants of the Trump appointed USCIS director who previously worked for Sen. Grassley’s office -- were likely at play in its decision to cancel the program for 50,000 Haitians whose futures are currently in limbo.

The full release of FOIA documents can be found at http://nipnlg.org/

Excerpts below:

Memo from Director of USCIS (Cissna)

"USCIS has conducted an in-depth review of conditions in Haiti. The full report, upon which USCIS' assessment and recommendation are based, can be found in Attachment B. In summary, Haiti has made significant progress in recovering from the 2010 earthquake, and no longer continues to meet the conditions for designation."

USCIS October 2017 Report on TPS Considerations for Haiti

"Many of the conditions prompting the original January 2010 TPS designation persist, and the country remains vulnerable to external shocks and internal fragility. Haiti has also experienced various setbacks that have impeded its recovery, including a cholera epidemic and the impact of Hurricane Matthew—the latter of which struck Haiti in October 2016 and “severely worsened the pre-existing humanitarian situation” in the country.5"

“As of August 2017, Haiti “continues to be affected by a convergence of humanitarian needs,” 6 including food insecurity, internal displacement, an influx of returnees from the Dominican Republic, the persistence of cholera, and the lingering impact of various natural disasters.7 Moreover, Haiti’s recovery has also been impacted by a series of other challenges related to housing, healthcare, economic growth, political instability, security, and environmental concerns.”

Where the director writes in his recommendation:

hile lingering effects o f the 2010 earthquake remain in housing, infrastructure, damage to the economy, health, sanitation services, security risks, and emergency response capacity, Haiti has made significant progress in addressing issues specific to the earthquake.

The report by his agency states:

Although some progress regarding reconstruction and recovery has been made in a variety of sectors, billions of dollars in pledged foreign assistance never materialized, and the pace and scope of Haiti’s recovery has been uneven. 4 Many of the conditions prompting the original January 2010 TPS designation persist, and the country remains vulnerable to external shocks and internal fragility.

Where the director writes:

Haiti successfully completed its presidential election in February 2017.

The report by his agency states:

While Haiti successfully completed its electoral process in February 2017 after two years of contested results and political crises, its new government faces various challenges to promote recovery and reconstruction.

Where the director writes:

Annual GDP growth following the 2010 earthquake has been erratic, but predominantly positive, ranging from as low as -5.5% (2010) to as high as 5.5% (2011), and averaging 1.9% over the period.

The report by his agency states:

According to June 2017 data from the World Bank, Haiti’s GDP growth is forecasted to further decline to 0.5% in 2017.49

While Haiti has made slight improvements in reducing poverty levels and increasing access to education and sanitation since 2000, a 2014 World Bank report noted that the “wealth generated in the country is largely inadequate to meet the needs of the people.”50

Where the director writes:

In May 2017, an estimated 5.8 million people (over 50 percent of the population) suffered from food insecurity, as compared to 3.2 million in September 2016. The deterioration in food security is the consequence of Hurricane Matthew's severe impact on southwest Haiti. Food insecurity is expected to be further impacted by Hurricane Irma, which struck Haiti in September. Haiti's weak public health system has grappled with a cholera epidemic that began in 2010 in the aftermath of the earthquake, but cholera is currently at its lowest level since the outbreak started. Currently, Haiti's food insecurity problems seem related to tropical storms and a drought rather than from lingering effects of the 2010 earthquake.

The report by his agency states:

A cholera epidemic that began in October 2010—reportedly the largest such outbreak of cholera in recent history—remains ongoing and continues to place additional strains on Haiti’s beleaguered public health system.36 From October 2010 through June 2017, there have been an estimated 813,000 cases of cholera in Haiti, and 9,676 people have been killed by the disease (which was allegedly introduced by United Nations peacekeepers).37 While progress has been made in combatting cholera since the peak of the epidemic in 2011,38 cholera has become endemic in Haiti, “with seasonal peaks regularly triggering emergency interventions.”39 In 2016, the number of suspected cholera cases increased, mainly due to a spike in suspected cases in areas affected by Hurricane Matthew in the aftermath of the storm.40

While the number of suspected cases of cholera has declined since 2016,41 Haiti nevertheless remains “extremely vulnerable” to the disease.42 According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), cholera continues to impact Haiti due to a lack of funding for the country’s National Plan for the Elimination of Cholera (PNEC), weak water and sanitation infrastructure, the lack of access to quality medical care, and high population density and mobility to urban areas.43

The National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild (NIPNLG) is a national non-profit organization that provides technical assistance and support to community-based immigrant organizations, legal practitioners, and all advocates seeking and working to advance the rights of noncitizens.