Daily Dispatch 2/21/2019: Report on Arrests in Haiti

Over the weekend eight heavily armed men were arrested in Port-au-Prince near a police checkpoint. The men were driving in two vehicles without license plates. Inside the vehicle were multiple automatic rifles, one with a scope, handguns, several drones, satellite phones and other weapons. NPR Reports:

“They said that they were here on a ‘government mission,’ ” Miami Herald reporter Jacqueline Charles told NPR from Port-au-Prince on Wednesday. “They did not specify which government, but then they did tell the police that … their boss was going to call their boss.”

The implication, Charles says, is that someone high in Haiti’s government would be able to free the heavily armed group — and she adds, “members of the administration of President Jovenel Moise did try to get these gentlemen released from police custody — but that did not work.”

On Tuesday this week it was revealed that one of the vehicles was registered to an advisor of President Moïse. From the Miami Herald:

A letter from a local car dealership to the prime minister revealed that one of the vehicles, the Ford, was purchased by a former government official and sent to the care of Fritz Jean-Louis, an adviser of President Jovenel Moïse. Jean-Louis has since fled the country, police said. Police found license plates inside the vehicles, and at least one was registered to Jean-Louis.

So who are the men? Five of them are U.S. citizens, four of who are known to have military backgrounds. Two are Serbian nationals and one is Haitian:

  1. Talon Ray Burton, the director of security for Hawkstorm Global Ltd, an international security firm run by Talon Ray Burton’s brother, Lance Burton.
  2. Kent Leland Kroeker, A 20-year Marine Corp vet who is a member of Kroeker Partners, a security advisory company (The company’s website states that it has no active mission in Haiti.).
  3. Christopher Mark McKinley, who is a former Navy SEAL, and founder and CEO of  INVICTVS Group, which is simply described as a “consortium of U.S. special operations veterans” that delivers “corporate team building services.”
  4. Christopher Michael Osman, another former Navy SEAL, who has claimed on social media to have been engaged in “classified operations” in the Arabian Gulf and Afghanistan.
  5. Dustin Porte, who operates Patriot Groups Services, listed as an electrical company based in Louisiana. Jacqueline Charles with the Miami Herald notes the company received a recent $16,000 contract with the Department of Homeland Security. There is no other known link to military or intelligence services at this point.
  6. Danilo Bajagic, a Serbian national currently working with K17 Security based in Rockville, MD. The company also claims to have no current operations in Haiti.
  7. Vlade Jankvic, another Serbian national about whom little is known.
  8. Michael Estera, a Haitian about whom little is known.

The men were held by police in Haiti until Wednesday, at which point they were flown to the United States, escorted to their plane by U.S. Embassy staff.

Airport employees say the men seemed quite at ease and were taken inside the VIP diplomatic lounge to wait on the flight after their tickets were purchased at the counter. One of the two Serbians initially was not allowed to board the flight by Haitian immigration because he had no stamps showing where he resides. After a few calls were made, he was put on the flight. The Haitian national, Michael Estera, who goes by the pseudonym “Cliford,” was not among those sent back to the U.S. He faces illegal weapons charges.

Below is a brief video clip of some of the arrested men deboarding their flight in Miami:

At this point, no one seems to know what they were doing in Haiti. If they were on an advisory mission with the government, or to there to provide security, it seems that would be an easy question to answer. The silence about their activities, is thus encouraging a great deal of speculation, especially in light of reports of people shot during recent demonstration. Now that they have been flown out of Haiti by the U.S. government we may never know.

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Haiti Update: Protests Enter 9th Day

Haiti has experienced 9 days of protest and violent state response. Opposition leaders have vowed to shut the country down until President Jovenel Moïse steps down. After seven days of silence, President Moïse finally addressed the country last night in a pre-recorded message. He had little of substance to offer, but did say he had no plans to step-down. Meanwhile, Moïse’s administration is in turmoil. He recalled the long-time Haitian ambassador to the United States this week, and reportedly some members of the PHTK (Moïse’s party) have already begun preparing to leave the country – if temporarily. It is hard to imagine how Moïse will hold on. If he tries to, the violence is likely to escalate, though what happens if he resigns is far from clear. The current prime minister and governing cabinet have only been in office since October, after the previous prime minister was forced to resign following mass protests in July.

Video report from Al Jazeera Wednesday, February 13

The “international community” has spoken (they always do). A statement issued earlier in the week from the so-called “Core Group” (composed of the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General, the Ambassadors of Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, the European Union, the United States of America, and the Special Representative of the Organization of American States) called for compromise to move forward legislation needed for elections in this coming October:

Reiterating the fact that in a democracy change must come through the ballot box, and not through violence, the Core Group urges the executive and legislative branches of power to collaborate for the electoral law and the 2018-2019 budget law to be adopted and promulgated as soon as possible. It is only through these actions that the elections scheduled by the Constitution for October 2019, can be held in a free, fair and transparent manner, and that an institutional vacuum will be avoided. (Full statement here)

This is all reasonable advice, but no government or institution in this group has done much to promote democracy in Haiti. Indeed, these are the folks largely responsible for the electoral farces of 2011 and 2016, not to mention a coup d’etat and 14 year-long UN occupation. 

Meanwhile the U.S. State Department’s spokesperson for Western Hemisphere Affairs said,

“We support the right of all people to demand a democratic and transparent government and to hold their government leaders accountable, but there is no excuse for violence. Violence leads to instability, less investment, and fewer jobs.”

Officially, the U.S. deplores violence….we’ll just leave that there. The State Department has issued a level four travel warning on Haiti, and is directing all non-essential embassy staff and family members to leave the country.

Meanwhile, with the ambassador to the U.S. recalled, Haiti Foreign Minister Edmond Bocchit is supposed to meet with Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton. As reported by Jacqueline Charles in the Miami Herald:

Bocchit has been seeking support for the Moïse administration in Washington ever since Haiti agreed to break with a longtime ally, Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro, and recognize acting opposition leader Juan Guaidó as president. The discussion topics have included getting U.S. support for the purchase of subsidized rice for Haiti and help with getting Qatar to assist it in buying its $2 billion debt from Venezuela linked to its Petrocaribe discounted oil program, say sources familiar with the discussions.

Bocchit, who last week visited the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the State Department with influential Haitian businessman Andy Apaid, would not comment on the planned Bolton meeting. Apaid, a Moïse supporter, led the civil society movement that forced the ouster of president Jean-Bertrand Aristide from power in 2004 amid a bloody revolt.

The protests this week are the latest in a series of demonstrations that have expressed deep frustration with government corruption, a stagnant economy, fuel shortages, inflation and the collapse of the exchange rate. The political opposition leading the protests, including Youri Latortue, are not exactly clean themselves. Opportunism abounds as the elite jockey for position amid the turmoil. How bad might things get? Jake Johnston writes that we may be witnessing the collapse of a political and economic system, stitched together by the “international community” to put a thin democratic facade on a system of pillage. His widely shared twitter thread ends:

The strategy of the Haitian government appears to be hunker down and hope this all just goes away. In the meantime, the situation for millions of Haitians will continue to deteriorate, caught between political violence, government ineptitude, and the ever-increasing cost of living. I believe what we are witnessing is the collapse of a system. A system that has failed the Haitian people. There are no more quick fixes; there are no more internationally devised compromises to paper over the reality. I fear that things will get worse before they get better.

The hope? A new generation of leaders who have yet to fully emerge, but undoubtedly will be the only ones able to lead their country forward. Who among the discredited political class will have the courage to step aside and empower them?

In Gros Morne, where Quixote Center’s partners live and carry out their work, the roads have been blocked for days, but otherwise things are relatively calm. There have been fighting and gunshots fired in nearby Gonaïves and St.Marc. Fuel shortages are complicating life here and everywhere in Haiti. Water treatment facilities are running out of fuel (and money) to run reverse osmosis processing. Gas in Gros Morne is up to $7.50 a gallon, when it is available at all. Hospitals are running out of medicine and other supplies because of the blockades. The team at the Jean Marie Vincent Center is thus far safe. We will keep in touch and report what we can. They did ask that we offer prayers for peace for Haiti. 

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Haiti: Quarterly Report from Jean Marie Vincent Formation Center

This year marks the 20th Anniversary of our partnership with the Jean Marie Vincent Formation Center near Gros Morne, Haiti. We will be celebrating the year with a delegation to Haiti in August – more details will be forthcoming once dates have been selected.

Over the past 20 years, the program has grown from a modest effort to forestall land erosion along the highway by reforesting adjacent hillsides, to a holistic program of sustainable agriculture that reaches communities throughout the region. We will be telling the story of the Jean Marie Vincent Formation Center throughout the year. Today we begin by simply sharing an update from the final quarter of work at the Center in 2018, which demonstrates the broad scope and creative efforts of the team in Gros Morne.

Some program highlights from the final three months of the year include:

  • In the last quarter 19,500 trees (including, coffee, lime, and avocado) were delivered for planting.
  • A weekly radio program was broadcast, titled The Earth is Our Mother, meant to educate people on key environmental themes. Important issues covered in recent months were the impact of plastic waste on the environment, especially rivers and oceans, and discussion of the health impacts of trash on people and animals in the area.
  • Trainings with a peasant organization [OTADB7MGM] in Moulen/Baden on soil conservation, and the establishment of a satellite nursery for saplings, with emphasis on trees whose produce can be monetized (lime and avocado).
  • Planting of weevil-resistant sweet potatoes with 23 families, covering over 42 acres.
  • Harvesting of the parish garden, which was down this year because of lack of rain. However, the garden has become self-sufficient in seed production.
  • Meetings with people who live near the forest on Tet Mon (original site of reforestation program) to discuss the importance of the forest for the community, and also to provide agricultural tools to the forest’s neighbors.
  • Expansion of the seed bank, with distribution to nine new families for a total of 25 families served this quarter.
  • Expansion of courtyard garden program to 27 families.
  • 20 trainings for “reinforcing” groups that help manage local programs on production, formation and economic management.

The work that is animated from the Jean Marie Vincent Formation Center continues to thrive under the creative management of Guy-Marie and Méléus Téligène, and is supported by the outreach director Marcel Garçon, who brings the program to communities throughout the region. We are continually inspired by their efforts, as we are by your ongoing support for the program.

 

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Update on Temporary Protected Status: It will not end on July 22 for Haiti

There are currently four different legal challenges to Trump’s decision to suspend Temporary Protected Status for most countries. Developments in one particular case have ramifications for TPS holders from Haiti, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Sudan. We are working to ensure that this information gets out into communities affected as there continues to be much confusion about the timeframe.

We will continue to demand a permanent solution, one that offers a path to permanent residency and citizenship.

The following update is from Steve Forester, an attorney with the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti:

As a result of developments in the Ramos case, Haiti TPS WON’T end July 22!  It’ll go thru December at least, and no one who now has TPS needs to pay or do ANYTHING at all to benefit!  More good news: any Haitian who had TPS but doesn’t anymore because they didn’t reregister for it in either 2017 or 2018 may and should reregister now!  (But beware of rip-off artists: no one who now has TPS needs to pay anyone or do anything except show their employer a Fed Register Notice to be published in March extending TPS thru December!)

DETAILS OF THIS:  Due to TPS-related legal developments in the ongoing Ramos federal court case:

1)  TPS for Haitians will virtually certainly NOT end on July 22, 2019; the government in early March will automatically extend it to approximately January 1, 2020, and quite possibly will do so for another nine months beyond that date, to September, 2020; no one who properly re-registered for TPS needs to pay or do anything at all to benefit from this!

2)  Haitians with TPS who didn’t re-register for it in 2017 or 2018 out of fear, confusion, or another good reason can and should seek to reregister now; the gov’t has agreed to give such applications “presumptive weight” as being filed late for good cause—meaning they should be granted and then entitled to the TPS extensions described above/below!

More Details:

As you know, DHS’s November 2017 decision ending Haiti TPS, with an 18-month grace period set to expire on July 22, 2019, is being challenged in four federal district court suits, including the Ramos litigation in San Francisco. On October 3, 2018, Judge Chen in Ramos issued a preliminary injunction (“PI”) in the plaintiffs’ favor, blocking as unconstitutional, while the injunction remains in effect, implementation of DHS’s TPS termination decisions for Haiti, El Salvador, Sudan, and Nicaragua.

The U.S. government (“USG”) has appealed Judge Chen’s order to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals but has agreed, while the court’s order is in effect, to certain important measures. These measures are reflected in an October 31 Federal Register Notice (“FRN”) (“Continuation of Documentation for Beneficiaries of Temporary Protected Status Designations for Sudan, Nicaragua, Haiti, and El Salvador”) or in a declaration filed in Ramos by a high-ranking USG official.

These important protective measures include the following:

  • Automatic 9 month extensions, starting in April 2019, unless there is a loss at a court of appeals: “DHS will issue another Federal Register Notice approximately 30 days before April 2, 2019, that will extend TPS for an additional nine months from April 2, 2019, for all affected beneficiaries under the TPS designations for Sudan, Nicaragua, Haiti, and El Salvador.  DHS will continue to issue Federal Register Notices at nine-month intervals so long as the preliminary injunction remains in place and will continue its commitment to [an] orderly transition period, as described above.” (There’s no way the Ninth Circuit will decide by early March, much less the Supreme Court.  So the early March additional Federal Register Notice referenced above will issue.)
  • TPS work and legal status will be automatic for those registered—no need to pay for employment authorization cards or further registration:Under the agreement, for as long as the district court’s order is in place, people with TPS who have re-registered previously – or who re-register late – will not need to register again or apply for a new EAD. They can rely on their existing (to-be-expired) EAD or TPS approval notice, as well as the Federal Register Notice, as valid authorization to work or as proof of legal status in the United States. They do not need to pay any further money to the US government, and should not need to pay for additional legal assistance either.
  • Re-registration possible—and likely guaranteed—for people who did not re-register during the Trump Administration: Crucially, Haitians with TPS who didn’t reregister in 2017 or 2018 due to fear or other good reason can successfully do so now!  If they now reregister for TPS late for good cause, the USG will give their applications “presumptive weight” as being valid!  This means that any Haitian TPS recipient who failed to reregister in 2017 or 2018 should be successful in doing so now — late — if they explain that they didn’t reregister on time due to fear, confusion, or other good reason.  (This is extremely important for example for the estimated nearly 16,000 Haitians with TPS who let their TPS status lapse early this year by not trying to reregister!)
  • No new terminations for these countries for now: The USG will not try to write new TPS termination notices for Haiti or the three other nations while the court’s order remains valid.
  • At least 6 months additional protection even if there is a loss at a higher court: “In the event the preliminary injunction is reversed and that reversal becomes final, DHS will allow for an orderly transition period,” which effectively amounts to about six months from the date of any such hypothetical future final, non-appealable order. This means that – if the district court’s order is overturned on appeal (at the court of appeals or the Supreme Court), the earliest that TPS holders from these countries could lose their legal status is about 6 months after the appeals court’s decision.

Prompt congressional action for a longer-term solution remains key.  But please help spread this crucially important info for TPS’ers explained above in Haitian American communities! Haitians with TPS need to know they needn’t fear anything changing on July 22; and Haitians who used to have it but who failed to reregister for it under Trump need to know that they may and should reregister for it now to get its protections.

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Haiti Update: Grassroots Victory in Caracol

In the wake of the 2010 earthquake, international donors pledged billions of dollars to help Haiti “Build Back Better.”  Once the earthquake receded into the background, however, commitments made with much fanfare in front of the cameras, deteriorated quickly. Five years after the earthquake, the U.S. had delivered $3.1 of the $4 billion committed for relief and recovery work  –  though a large portion of this represents the cost of the U.S. military deployment in the days immediately following the quake.  USAID’s portion of funding was $657 million, a third or more of which went to build the Caracol Industrial Park in the North East department.

Caracol was a controversial project from the beginning – miles away from the disaster zone, the United States’ major funding initiative in Haiti was essentially going to be an export platform for clothing manufacture i.e., a park for sweatshops. And U.S. expertise was thus on full display: create a project that makes millions of dollars for a handful of investors off the blood, sweat, and tears of underpaid garment workers and call it “development.” If the envisioned end result was far from anything one might call “better,” the process through which the park was constructed might simply be considered another disaster visited upon the local community.

To build the park, land was taken from local farmers. Nearly 400 families were displaced – indeed, they were given only 5 days to vacate the land on which their families had lived for generations. Five years later, only 5 of these families had received credit for the purchase of new land. Caracol was to provide employment – but, as with sweatshops everywhere, the target workforce was women in their 20s and 30s, not middle-aged farmers. ActionAid, which has worked with the community throughout most of the process, provides more detail here.

After several years of unfulfilled promises, the families displaced by the park created the Kolektif Peyizan Viktim Tè Chabè to begin to fight for redess. The community worked with another local non-governmental organization, AREDE and with ActionAid and Accountability Counsel internationally to press funders to provide compensation. Last year, the Kolektif entered into formal arbitration with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), another major funder of the park, and the government of Haiti through the IDB’s Independent Consultation and Investigation Mechanism. Last month the parties reached a settlement that may well provide a template for other community action seeking accountability.

The agreement is divided into two sections: Corrective Measures for the Restoration of Livelihoods and Measures Concerning the Environmental and Social Impacts of the Caracol Industrial Park (PIC). The agreement includes a commitment for one member of each family to find employment in the industrial park, the granting of access to land and technical support to families that have not secured land since the park opened, vocational training and access to microcredit programs for the creation of small businesses. A full description of the provisions of the agreement can be found here (per IDB rules, the full text of the agreement is not publically available).

The agreement represents a major victory for the community, though full implementation of its provisions is far from certain, and will require continued monitoring. That said, the community should have never been put in this position to begin with. The placement of the park on some of the most fertile land in northern Haiti, near important watersheds already suffering from pollution from the park, represents a model of development in which community stakeholders are shut out of planning, and environmental concerns are pushed to the back burner. Haiti has seen too much of this kind of development over the years.

True, the park has provided jobs and the generation facility for the park has provided electricity to nearby communities. But on balance, the process was a disaster for the community and one is left to wonder what $260+ million might have achieved if local people had been included in the process of visioning a new approach to development from the beginning. As we mark 9 years since the earthquake, that remains an important question.

 

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Haiti: Celebrating the New Year and Independence

On January 1st, Haiti celebrated the 215th anniversary of the conclusion of its revolution and struggle for independence from France. In 1804, Haiti became the second independent republic in the Western Hemisphere. The struggle in Haiti also marked the first successful revolution led by people formerly enslaved – anywhere in the world.

Haiti was not welcomed into the world of independent states. Where we see an inspirational story of a people’s successful struggle for liberty, the United States and European powers at the time saw a threat. For the US the example of a successful rebellion led by enslaved people was intolerable. The US would not recognize Haiti’s independence until 1865, and conspired with European powers to isolate Haiti and block its international trade. France threatened a re-conquest of Haiti in 1825 – forcing the government to pay an indemnification for lost property (human beings, mind you) or face invasion. The debt accrued then, not paid off until 1947, continues to hang over Haiti’s development as the economy was restructured to meet the demands of international creditors.

As the new year begins, the people of Haiti are in a renewed struggle for accountability and independence. A protest movement launched against corruption in the administration of PetroCaribe funds has morphed into a broader movement for far reaching change. International creditors still demand policy changes that accommodate the outflow of dollars to banks and their gatekeeper, the International Monetary Fund. The UN is in the process of stepping down its direct involvement in security – scheduled to end the current mission in October this year. But the legacy of the 15 year occupation remains deeply problematic. Capturing these dynamics, Jake Johnston authored this update about the movement in Haiti.

Throughout it all, Haiti remains the source of compelling visions of liberation and is animated by a deep cultural heritage rooted in resistance to the many forms of oppression the people have experienced. An interesting introduction to Haitian authors, each of whom has explored different historical periods of struggle can be found here. We encourage you to explore some of these works.

We celebrate the new year, and the anniversary of the revolution, committed in our journey with the people in Gros Morne as they implement their creative and resilient programs for sustainable agriculture and reforestation. And we continue to seek a more just foreign policy, so that the struggle for independence may be fully realized.

 

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Haiti Update: Policing the Poor Is Not Security

On Wednesday, December 12 the United Nations’ special representative for its operations in Haiti, Helen La Lime, gave a presentation to members of the Security Council on the current status of the mission (MINUJUSTH) which is set to expire on October 15, 2019. Lime suggested that the mission had achieved a lot, but that challenges remain, especially in light of the current protests and calls for President Jovenel Moïse to step down. Lime argued for more support for the police, a primary focus of the current UN mission:

“It would behoove not only the government of Haiti, but also the international community to fulfill their commitment to fully fund the five-year HNP [Haitian National Police] Strategic Development Plan, so as to ensure the continued buildup of human, logistical and material capacity of the institution.”

Is this emphasis on policing misplaced? There is little doubt that human security is threatened in Haiti – as it is many places. However, it seems that the emphasis on policing is a thin veil for the underlying class dynamics at play, whereby the wealthy desire protection from an impoverished majority.

Peace…?

The UN established a “peace-keeping” mission in 2004 following a coup that forced President Aristide from office that February. MINUSTAH, the original mission, would come to be a dominant presence in Haiti, in a tenure dominated by scandals: Armed incursions into Cite Soleil that killed dozens of civilians, sex trafficking and other abuse of women and girls, and the introduction of cholera into the country in 2010, an epidemic that has killed at least 10,000 people. Against the backdrop of the scandals have been daily operations characterized by the all too familiar bigotry of international aid, whereby international “advocates” have more access to policy makers than the majority of the people impacted by policies.

The principal purpose of MINUSTAH was, in theory at least, to provide security, broadly understood, in the wake of the coup (officially not a coup, but a resignation). Toward that end, MINUSTAH, among other things, oversaw an expansion of Haiti’s police force, from 2,500 in 2004 to 16,000 officers today. MINUSTAH’s mission came to a close in 2017, and was replaced with MINUJUSTH, which has focused primarily on police “professionalization.” In recounting MINUJUSTH’s achievements, however, Lime missed a few details.

In November of 2017, 200 police officers descended on the Gran Ravine area of Port-au-Prince in an “anti-gang” operation. The community was under siege for 6 hours – during which time HNP killed several civilians, beating someone nearly to death with a chair at Maranatha College in front of community members, then killing a teacher who tried to intervene. In total, nine people were killed, five with gunshots to the head – the bodies left in view of the community until the next day. UN “trainers” helped organize the operation, but blamed the deaths on rogue police officers, taking (as is the UN habit in Haiti) “no responsibility” for the killing.

The UN statement on the operation read:

“None of the [U.N. police] unit proceeded to the location at Maranatha College where the alleged killings took place,” the spokesperson wrote. “The planned portion of the operation went relatively well. The post-operation unilateral initiative of some HNP members to conduct a high risk search, proceeding outside of the operational cadre, without advising the hierarchy, without authorization and contravening the operation plan was not part of the planned operation.”   

A different kind of security

It should come as no surprise (though many seem surprised) that Haiti’s internal security problems have not been solved by increasing the size of the police force. The underlying structural socio-economic tensions remain, and are worsening: Inequality, economic stagnation, and an indifferent elite (indifferent to the poor, that is), typically backed by the “international community” in their indifference. The class dynamics in Haiti remain consistent: the police sequester and contain the poor, while protecting the wealthy in the name of stability and property. This is, of course, the institutional role of the police within capitalism more generally – not simply in Haiti – a role that has intensified globally in the last decades of neo-liberal pilfering of state resources.

So, as the UN discusses its ongoing role in Haiti, the Haitian people might be better served if the talk was less about the police and more about the UN’s debt for the cholera crisis and how it will repay that debt with expansive investments in health infrastructure. Or, they could talk about how to contain (dare we say, “police”?) affiliated organizations like the International Monetary Fund that continue to press for deeper and deeper austerity. The current political upheaval is hard to separate from IMF pressures. For example, the IMF demand for cuts in fuel subsidies sparked huge protests in July – protests that led to the resignation of the previous government.

A security regime that focuses on just working conditions, a sustainable and revitalized economy – especially in rural areas – health and education access, and human rights protections might be more effective than funding more police officers. The so-called “international community” has the resources, and it might even be cheaper than the current strategy. The reason such measures are not taken is that security for the poor is not really the goal. Security for the wealthy, and the system from which they derive their wealth, remains the evident goal.  This is not likely to change any time soon. But we can still call for accountability and join in solidarity with those who are trying to change the system.

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Haiti Update 11/16/18

Deforestation may take all of Haiti’s Primary Forest

A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds that Haiti may lose all of its primary forest within the next 20 years:

Here, we find that Haiti has less than 1% of its original primary forest and is therefore among the most deforested countries. Primary forest has declined over three decades inside national parks, and 42 of the 50 highest and largest mountains have lost all primary forest.

The impact of this loss has been dramatic. The study is particularly concerned with the resulting loss of biodiversity. The authors find that:

surveys of vertebrate diversity (especially amphibians and reptiles) on mountaintops indicates that endemic species have been lost along with the loss of forest. At the current rate, Haiti will lose essentially all of its primary forest during the next two decades and is already undergoing a mass extinction of its biodiversity because of deforestation.

The loss of biodiversity and forest cover also impacts people’s lives directly, through increased flooding events and mudslides. As a result hundreds of people die each year in flooding events directly tied to deforestation.

Primary forests in this study refer to forests that have not yet been cut by humans – as opposed to secondary forests that are the result of reforestation efforts. While reforestation can have a huge impact in prevention of flooding, secondary forests lack the biodiversity of primary forest cover.

The one weakness in the report is that it lays blame on the poor who clear forests for charcoal and small-scale agriculture. While this dynamic is undeniable, the root cause of these practices is deep inequity in Haiti’s social-economy that drives the poor onto vulnerable land. Protecting forests from such encroachment may be necessary, but absent other solutions that provide avenues for alternative means to make a living, conservation efforts will simply further marginalize the poor. This is why our work in reforestation is first and foremost an agricultural project that integrates tree planting with agro-ecology, water protection, and animal husbandry. There is an inherent value in planting and preserving trees – but neither works sustainably unless accompanied by social practices that respond to the lived reality of the communities most directly affected.

TPS Extended for Haitians

As reported last week, Temporary Protected Status for Haitians will “almost certainly” be extended as the result of lawsuits moving forward in the federal courts. Temporary Protected Status is a special designation that allows people already in the United States to remain here following natural disasters or periods of political instability in their country of origin. Haiti is one of nine countries that have been granted TPS. Last year, Trump announced that TPS for Haitians in the United States would not be extended – and he has moved to phase out TPS for most other countries covered by it. Without an extension, Haitians living in the United States under TPS had until July 22, 2019 to leave the U.S. With the cases moving forward in the federal courts, this deadline will most likely be extended.

Canceling TPS impacts 50,000 Haitians living in the United States, and another 27,000 children born in the U.S. that would either be deported with their parents, or would be separated. Sejal Zota, legal director for the National  Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild writes:

In 2017, Trump announced that TPS for Haitian nationals would end on July 22, 2019…In response, NIPNLG filed a lawsuit, Saget v. Trump, with the law firms of Kurzban, Kurzban, Weinger, Tetzeli and Pratt P.A, (Kurzban), and Mayer Brown. The suit was brought on behalf of a dozen plaintiffs, including Patrick Saget, Haïti Liberté, the largest weekly Haitian newspaper in this hemisphere, and Family Action Network Movement, Inc. (FANM). Trials these days are rare in cases like this: they are usually decided on motions. This makes the decision even more notable, suggesting that the court may truly wish to hold the government accountable. A trial will begin promptly on January 7, 2019.

Read more about what this means in this message from Steve Forester of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti.

 

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TPS to be Extended for Haiti

The follow is a message from Steven Forester, the Immigration Policy Coordinator for the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti. He is reporting some great news which we share in full below.

Due to legal developments in the Ramos court case related to TPS, explained below:

1)  TPS for Haitians will virtually certainly NOT end on July 22, 2019; the government in early March will automatically extend it to approximately January 1, 2020, and quite possibly will do so for another nine months beyond that date, to September, 2020;
 
2)  Haitians with TPS who didn’t re-register for it in 2017 or 2018 out of fear, confusion, or another good reason can and should seek to reregister now; the gov’t has agreed to give such applications “presumptive weight” as being filed late for good cause—meaning they should be granted and then entitled to the TPS extensions described above/below;
 
More Details:
 
As you know, DHS’s November 2017 decision ending Haiti TPS, with an 18-month grace period set to expire on July 22, 2019, is being challenged in four federal district court suits, including the Ramos litigation in San Francisco. On October 3, Judge Chen in Ramos issued a preliminary injunction (“PI”) in the plaintiffs’ favor, suspending as unconstitutional, while the injunction is in effect, implementation of DHS’s TPS termination decisions for Haiti, El Salvador, Sudan, and Nicaragua.
 
The U.S. government (“USG”) has appealed Judge Chen’s order to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals but has agreed, while the court’s order is in effect, to certain important measures. These measures are reflected in an October 31 Federal Register Notice (“FRN”) (“Continuation of Documentation for Beneficiaries of Temporary Protected Status Designations for Sudan, Nicaragua, Haiti, and El Salvador”) or in a declaration filed in Ramos by a high-ranking USG official.
 
These important protective measures include the following:
  1. Automatic 9 month extensions, starting in April 2019, unless there is a loss at a court of appeals: “DHS will issue another Federal Register Notice approximately 30 days before April 2, 2019, that will extend TPS for an additional nine months from April 2, 2019, for all affected beneficiaries under the TPS designations for Sudan, Nicaragua, Haiti, and El Salvador.  DHS will continue to issue Federal Register Notices at nine-month intervals so long as the preliminary injunction remains in place and will continue its commitment to [an] orderly transition period, as described above.” (There’s no way the Ninth Circuit will decide by early March, much less the Supreme Court.  So the early March additional Federal Register Notice referenced above will issue.)

 

  1. TPS work and legal status will be automatic for those registered—no need to pay for employment authorization cards or further registration:Under the agreement, for as long as the district court’s order is in place, people with TPS who have re-registered previously – or who re-register late – will not need to register again or apply for a new EAD. They can rely on their existing (to-be-expired) EAD or TPS approval notice, as well as the Federal Register Notice, as valid authorization to work or as proof of legal status in the United States. They do not need to pay any further money to the US government, and should not need to pay for additional legal assistance either.
 
  1. Re-registration possible—and likely guaranteed—for people who did not re-register during the Trump Administration: Crucially, Haitians with TPS who didn’t reregister in 2017 or 2018 due to fear or other good reason can successfully do so now!  If they now reregister for TPS late for good cause, the USG will give their applications “presumptive weight” as being valid!  This means that any Haitian TPS recipient who failed to reregister in 2017 or 2018 should be successful in doing so now — late — if they explain that they didn’t reregister on time due to fear, confusion, or other good reason.  (This is extremely important for example for the estimated nearly 16,000 Haitians with TPS who let their TPS status lapse early this year by not trying to reregister!)
 
  1. No new terminations for these countries for now: The USG will not try to write new TPS termination notices for Haiti or the three other nations while the court’s order remains valid.
 
  1. At least 6 months additional protection even if there is a loss at a higher court: “In the event the preliminary injunction is reversed and that reversal becomes final, DHS will allow for an orderly transition period,” which effectively amounts to about six months from the date of any such hypothetical future final, non-appealable order. This means that – if the district court’s order is overturned on appeal (at the court of appeals or the Supreme Court), the earliest that TPS holders from these countries could lose their legal status is about 6 months after the appeals court’s decision.
 
Further info will be shared on these legal developments in a webinar and/or otherwise, and prompt congressional action for a longer-term solution remains essential.  Meanwhile, please help disseminate the crucially important information explained above!
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Haiti Program Update 11/2/2018

Earthquake News, Disaster Relief

The northern departments of Haiti were struck by a powerful earthquake on October 6. The quake was centered in Port-de-Paix, but also severely affected Gros Morne, where several schools and the pediatric ward of the hospital were damaged or destroyed, as well as many homes. Thanks to many of you, we were able to deliver $3,000 to Haiti last week to help with the purchase of emergency supplies to assist people in need of shelter.

Over the last few weeks communities near Gros Morne have had a chance to take stock of the damage. There was significant damage done to 500 homes in the immediate area. Some photos here from Perou demonstrate the impact. We will continue to coordinate activities with our partners in Gros Morne to discern next steps.

Other Program News

The program that Jean Marie Vincent Formation Center had another busy quarter. From July through September the program distributed just over 17,000 saplings through satellite nurseries in the nearby communities of Koray, Danti, and Moulen. Accompanying the delivery of saplings in these communities and elsewhere, Center staff held trainings that reached 700 people.

In addition to the reforestation efforts, the Formation Center conducted a variety of workshops: Engaging  Environmental Education with 43 teachers in Danti, How to Begin a Community Tree Nursery also in Danti, a workshop on Reforestation and the Creation of Yard Gardens for 209 participants in Chato. In total workshops covered 4 zones and reached 420 people.

Some other activities include

  • Center staff assisted in the planting of 28.75 karos (just over 90 acres) of weevil resistant sweet potatoes.
  • The seed bank supported by the Formation Center delivered seeds to 123 families
  • 47 families taking part in the yard garden program were able to begin harvesting, and another 27 new families joined in the program.
  • The mobile veterinary clinic was able to provide care to many animals including 250 goats and sheep and 5 horses.

A final note, as you will be reading more about in our next newsletter, the Formation Center hosted a second annual conference on the environment in August. Quixote Center staff participated in the conference, alongside students from agronomy programs in the national university system and local farmers and activists. We look forward to attending again next year!

Migration

In other news, the Dominican Republic continues to deport Haitians in alarming numbers. Migration control teams composed of inspectors and agents of the Directorate General of Migration, in coordination with the military and National Police, continue to engage in enforcement actions. Recent operations led to arrest of 1,167 Haitians, 877 of whom were removed from the country. As we have reported here, the situation of Haitians in the Dominican Republic continues to be insecure.

On a more positive note, CARICOM has issued new rules on migration that allow people to travel within CARICOM members states without a visa for up to six months. The move was an initial step toward allowing the free movement of people within CARICOM member states, which include: Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago

 

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Contact Us

  • Quixote Center
    7307 Baltimore Ave.
    Ste 214
    College Park, MD 20740
  • Office: 301-699-0042
    Email: info@quixote.org

Direction to office:

For driving: From Baltimore Ave (Route 1) towards University of Maryland, turn right onto Hartwick Rd. Turn immediate right in the office complex.

Look for building 7307. We are located on the 2nd floor.

For public transportation: We are located near the College Park metro station (green line)