The Principle Of Generality And The Legal Status Of Haitian Immigrants

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The Haitian Independence story is not all that different from the American Independence story: a group of colonists seeking relief from oppressive and disinterested rulers. Both peoples fought bitterly for what they knew to be a universal right, the right to direct one town’s life in the pursuit of happiness, both having come out victorious. One would expect the two nations to welcome one another, if for nothing else than for sharing the ideals upon which their nations were founded. And yet, less than one year ago, the Trump administration announced that it would be terminating the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) of tens of thousands of Haitian immigrants seeking refuge in the United States. This declaration has violated the “rule of law” principle of generality. The legal status of Haitian immigrants is being threatened solely because of their nationality and current socioeconomic status, and this violates the principle of generality. Generality means that the laws must apply to broad groups of people, and must not be prejudiced against a particular group based on their identity.

Last November, President Trump told the nearly 60,000 Haitians given TPS protection after the 2010 earthquake to leave the US by July 2019. The reported reason for the change was that, by law, when conditions from the disaster that triggered the protections have improved, the protection expires; However, documents released as part of the Freedom of Information Act show that the Department of Homeland Security contradicted its assessment of Haiti. In one example, the report said "Many of the conditions prompting the original January 2010 TPS designation persist, and the country remains vulnerable to external shocks and internal fragility." The report concluded that many conditions, including "economic difficulties, a cholera epidemic, a housing crisis, and food insecurity," meant recovery has been severely hindered. Clearly, improved conditions were not the real reason behind the decision. Commenting on the policy, President Trump asked "Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?”, then proposing, instead, to let in people from other countries, such as Norway and Asian countries, because he felt that they could help the United States economically. "Why do we need more Haitians?" Trump said, "Take them out." President Trump’s words demonstrate that the underlying reasons behind the act were based on prejudice against the Haitian people, both for their nationality and their current socioeconomic status, which violated the principle of generality.

Inscribed on the Haitian flag are the words “L’union Fait La Force”, a French phrase meaning “Union creates strength.” History has shown that a free and robust union can only exist where rule of law principles are adhered to, and the future state of our union depends upon whether we can return to those guiding founding principles.

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