At just 15 years old, Stivenson Jean-Louis has his future all planned out. He wants to become a psychologist, and open a business where psychologists of all disciplines work together. But the Trump administration’s decision to end temporary protected status for Haitians has Jean-Louis worried he won’t be able to fulfil his ambition.
“I feel like all my dreams that I have for myself are being washed away. That they’re going to be cancelled,” he said.
Jean-Louis came to America with his father and brother in 2007. In 2010, after an earthquake devastated Haiti, his father was given TPS: Temporary Protected Status. It allowed Fresnel Jean-Louis to work as a cleaner and establish roots in the U.S.
On Monday, an estimated 59,000 Haitians in the U.S. living under TPS found out that the program will end in July 2019. They’ve been told to return to the impoverished nation or face deportation.
“America has offered me so much opportunity, I want to stay,” Fresnel Jean-Louis said in Creole.
‘No special program’ in Canada
If Haitians are looking northward to Canada as an answer, Liberal MP Emmanuel Dubourg wants them to think again. A Haitian himself, he spent the day crisscrossing Brooklyn, meeting with the community to explain Canada’s immigration laws.
“It’s really important to tell them there is no special program right now in Canada for Haitian communities or other communities,” Dubourg said.
After the U.S. warned earlier this year that TPS would not be renewed, thousands fled to Canada seeking asylum. The RCMP arrested more than 15,000 people at the Quebec border alone, the majority coming between July and October.
Dubourg said the flood of Haitians was spurred by misinformation on social media, so he’s hoping to clear things up in meetings with community leaders, lawyers, local politicians and advocacy groups.
The MP said only a small portion of those who sought asylum were accepted, and that those that aren’t accepted will be sent back to Haiti, not the U.S.
The problem is Canada offers a better chance than Haiti, a country still rebuilding from both the earthquake and last year’s Hurricane Matthew.
Families who spoke to CBC News said the main reason they can’t return is that their children barely know the country. They’ve spent most, if not all, their lives in the U.S.
“It’s really frightening, and the kids, they’re really sad,” said a home-care worker who didn’t want to be identified for fear she’d become a target of immigration officials.