Anthropology and Environment Society
Oral Presentation Session
Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is a legal protection from removal granted to foreign nationals whose home countries have been deemed unsafe. Armed conflicts, natural disasters, and epidemics are among the conditions which may qualify TPS holders to live and work in the US until the situation improves in their country of origin (Fitzpatrick 2000). Haitians are the third largest beneficiaries of TPS, with 47,000 people claiming this status since the devasting 2010 earthquake, and Hurricanes Matthew and Irma in 2016 and 2017. Despite the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Haiti, the Trump Administration terminated TPS for Haiti in 2018 (ECHO 2018). This action was later blocked in court, so TPS for Haitians is now extended until 2020 (Cohn et al 2019).
However, for Haitians living in Santa Rosa, California, this temporary reprieve offers limited comfort. Many in this community are still recovering from the 2017 Tubbs wildfires which killed 23 people and burned 5% of the city’s available housing (Vives et al 2017). For some, Trump’s decision to rescind TPS is like the mudslides that come after the earthquakes and hurricanes: another destructive force disrupting their search for safety. This paper explores the turbulent intersections of natural and man-made disasters, from the environmental and political displacements of people from Haiti, to the racialized and politicized dislocations of Haitians in the US immigration landscape. Different survival strategies utilized by Bay Area Haitian TPS beneficiaries are examined as they navigate the precariously murky waters of their legal standing in the US.