December 01, 2017 04:23 AM
Tens of thousands of Haitian natives living in America will soon be forced to leave.
Many of them will follow in the footsteps of others out of New York State and right into Canada.
It’s a problem for officials to our north and could be for you too. Advocates point out a certain job field, already lacking in employees, will have an even greater need.
Last month, we took you to Roxham Road, a small isolated road on the U.S.-Canada border in the northeastern part of New York State. It’s where Canadian customs officials say refugees have been illegally crossing and asking for asylum. It could get worse for them and worse for you if you medical help.
Gracia: “Just want to leave.”
Chris Horvatits: “What makes you scared to be here?”
Gracia: “Just different.”
Gracia is a Panamanian native who we met at Roxham Road earlier this fall. She didn’t end up crossing into Canada that day at least. But according to Canadian customs officials, many more are.
“These people are coming here actually because they’re living in the United States, and they’re afraid that their status is not going to be renewed, their protected status,” says Jean-Pierre Fortin.
According Fortin, it’s creating a backlog of requests. He’s the head of the union that represents Canada’s customs officers and the nationality of most asylum seekers.
“Most of the refugees are coming from Haiti,” says Fortin.
Chris Horvatits: “Why do you think that’s happening?”
Mareus: “Because they don’t want to go to Haiti.”
Roosevelt Mareus would know. He is from there and goes back three times a year. He’s now dean and executive director of the Rochester Educational Opportunity Center. He’s also the president of Elevate Haiti Ministries.
“The people are not ready to go back to a country where there is no stability,” says Mareus. “There are no jobs. There’s no security. You have over 40 percent of the people are not working.”
And here’s something that could drive more Haitians to head north across New York’s border. Haitian natives living in the U.S. under a temporary protected status will have their legal status revoked by July 2019. It was initially offered after the 2010 earthquake. Some officials estimate that as many as 60,000 Haitians are under that status. If they don’t want to go back to Haiti, Fortin and Mareus agree: Many more will turn to Canada.
Mareus: “Imagine you have, not just in Rochester, but in this country — you have 60,000 people leaving the country at one time. Who’s going to fill up these jobs?”
Chris Horvatits: “What kind of jobs are we talking about?”
Mareus: “A lot of Haitians, especially in New York and Florida, they work in the health care field.”
That’s a field which, according to New York’s Department of Labor is already looking for workers in this state. Canadian officials believe the underlying cause of the exodus on Roxham Road is due to the hardline stance on immigration federal officials in the U.S. have taken due to safety concerns. Gates Town Supervisor Mark Assini has applauded that effort.
“We want them to have an opportunity at the American dream, but that doesn’t mean we leave our borders wide open,” says Assini. “Stricter enforcement will save lives. There are a number of criminals that are looking to get into the United States.”
Fortin says, because of the stance U.S. officials have taken, he’s actually been ready for more Haitians to cross over the border. In fact, he expected their temporary status to be revoked as soon as next year and says the 2019 expiration date might give Canada more time to prepare, but it’s still a big concern.
“We don’t have sufficient officers to deal with the matter right now,” says Fortin.
Homeland Security officials are ending the program for Haitians, basically saying their country should be able to welcome natives home by now. Officials have decided that temporary protective status for Nicaraguan and Sudanese immigrants will both expire as well. That will happen over the next 14 months.