The decision made this week to end TPS status for Haitians is unnecessary and unwise. More to the point, it is neither required nor is it morally right.
Thanksgiving is a time to reflect upon the blessings our nation and ourselves and families have received from a generous God, and to renew our commitment, personally and nationally, to share these blessings with all who live in this land. The spirit of gratitude and generosity embodied in Thanksgiving stands in sharp contrast to the decision of the U.S. Government this week to end Temporary Protective Status (TPS) for over 50,000 Haitians living in the United States. TPS is an act of compassion and care designed to assist those whose visas have expired in the United States, and for whom return to their native land is either dangerous or threatening to their lives and welfare. TPS is the kind of political generosity which for decades has earned the United States a positive reputation throughout the international community.
The decision made this week to end TPS status for Haitians is unnecessary and unwise. More to the point, it is neither required nor is it morally right. It is true that the U.S. Government has the legal capacity to terminate TPS for Haitians as well as Nicaraguans, Salvadorans and Hondurans living under TPS today. But the United States can and should do far better. As the strongest and wealthiest nation in the Americas we have a moral responsibility to provide care and compassion for our brothers and sisters living here under TPS. An action that would deport thousands of men, women and children to the poorest country in the Americas contradicts the image we hold of ourselves and the leadership we seek to provide for the world.
Throughout almost fifty years of religious life and priesthood I have had the privilege to work with immigrants and refugees coming to the United States for protection and for the opportunity for a better life for themselves and their families. As the Archbishop of Boston it is a blessing for me to be able to continue this ministry. The Boston area has one of the largest Haitian communities in the United States. Annually I celebrate the Haitian Independence Day on January 1st by celebrating Mass with the Haitian community. The enthusiasm and spirit of those who have filled the Cathedral of the Holy Cross to capacity reflects the tremendous goodness these individuals and families bring to our local communities. I know in detail what the consequences will be for our Haitian population, including the hundreds of children in our Catholic schools, and others now protected by TPS if that protection is ended. There will be great pain and suffering as families will be separated and children possibly left behind as parents are deported.
These dire consequences will not end with deportation: returning to Haiti at this time means going back to a country still struggling to recover from the effects of a massive earthquake, the outbreak of cholera and the recent impact of Hurricane Matthew. The Church in Haiti has described how unrealistic it is to propose that 50,000 people be received and resettled into the devastation and poverty in their land.
As a bishop and a pastor, as well as a citizen I am compelled to speak clearly against the current policy of our government in refusing to extend TPS for the Haitian community. It is my hope that the U.S. Congress will work with the Trump Administration to rectify this policy which lacks both wisdom and compassion. It is my hope that the Catholic community will join other American citizens in calling for a response to our Haitian neighbors that acknowledges both their dignity and our responsibility, a better and more humane response to men and women with families, with jobs which serve our communities, and with the hope to continue their lives in this good and generous nation.
Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley, OFM Cap. Is Archbishop of Boston