It’s been a year since Hurricane Matthew slammed into Haiti, taking hundreds of lives and sending thousands fleeing to the United States.
The anniversary comes as Haitians and Haitian-Americans in the Boston area look with apprehension at a decision by the Trump administration next month.
That’s when the administration has said it would decide whether to end Temporary Protected Status for 58,000 Haitians living and working in the U.S. The status provides legal residency for victims of natural disasters. Many first arrived after a devastating earthquake in 2010.
Everett has become a home to a large number of Haitians and Haitian-Americans in recent years. Many are here on TPS. Others are here without the required documents. Many others are permanent residents and citizens, but know people whose legal status is precarious.
Every week, high school students from the Haitian community in Everett gather to talk about what’s on their minds. These days, the fear of having to leave, or seeing loved ones having to leave, is foremost.
“I feel sad, because I don’t know where I’m going in the future,” says one of the students.
He is from Port au Prince. He came here when American missionaries got him a scholarship to play basketball in the U.S. He stayed and is now here without legal papers. Because of that, WBUR has agreed not to use his name. He is a senior at Everett High School.
“It hurts when I’m getting out of school where they’re using me for the basketball, which I’m good at, and then I’m walking down the street, but I have fear that somebody might stop me, that I can be deported, not only myself, but a lot of my friends, a lot of youth, a lot of families,” he says in Haitian Creole. “It’s not fair.”
Tears come to his eyes.
“I have had people that have died in my family,” he says. “I have never cried. This is the very first time tears have come out of my eyes.”
Another Everett High senior, Jean-Gandhy Medard, says in French, “Since the new administration, there is conflict, and we are beginning to worry, because not everyone has the right documents.”
Switching to English, he talks about how, increasingly, he feels judged by the color of his skin.
“You can’t just stop someone because of the way he looks and then to tell: ‘Where you come from?’ The thing that really affects me is they said: ‘Why don’t you speak good English? If you don’t speak good English, how come you have been here?’ ”
Medard is also from Port au Prince. He came here in 2015 to live with his aunt, who sponsored him for a green card. He’s not worried about himself, because he is here as a legal permanent resident, but he is worried about people he knows. He says friends of his have left because police have asked them for documents they don’t have. Most, he says, have fled for Canada or the Antilles.
“For me, it’s a catastrophe,” he says in French. “It’s a disarrangement. It’s really something terrible compared to how we used to live, how we used to relate to one another, and how life was before, and now, all of a sudden, because of problems with papers or social pressures, all of that has disappeared. It’s really sad.”
Medard says he knows people who have been here for a long time.
“And have fortune and they are about to lose everything,” he says. “People who have been in this country 30, 40 years, and then they heard they have to leave. It’s already their home.”
To be forced to leave now, he says, is to be forced to make a move you will regret for the rest of your life.
By: Fred Thys | October 4, 2017