Nashville Churches Hope for Divine Intervention as Haitian Congregants Face Losing Immigration Status

(Photo: Larry McCormack / The Tennessean)

Pastor Maromy Samuel does not want members of his East Nashville congregation to uproot their lives and leave the U.S. 

Due to a recent federal policy change, they are set to lose their legal immigration status and will have to return to Haiti.

But Samuel has hope that God will intervene.

“It is not a time for despair. It is a time for hope,” said Samuel, who is a pastor at Nashville First Church of the Nazarene. “It is a time to know that God loves us and he will continue to provide for these families.”

Samuel and a couple of other ministers who lead Haitian congregations in the city are advocating for a solution that allows their members to stay in Nashville longer. The pastors are working with immigrant rights advocates, reaching out to lawmakers and praying.

At least a half-dozen families who worship with Samuel are among the nearly 60,000 Haitians in the U.S. affected by the Department of Homeland Security’s November decision to terminate the temporary protected status designation for Haiti. It ends July 22, 2019.

“It’s a shock to the church and to the community,” Samuel said. “People are now worried that they are going to be deported back to a country that is still in the rebuilding stage.”

Under the Obama administration, Haitians were granted TPS after the devastating 2010 earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people and displaced many more. Several extensions were granted in subsequent years.

Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke said in November that conditions have improved enough in Haiti for the TPS status to end. Advocates for extending the protections disagree.

“Significant steps have been taken to improve the stability and quality of life for Haitian citizens, and Haiti is able to safely receive traditional levels of returned citizens. Haiti has also demonstrated a commitment to adequately prepare for when the country’s TPS designation is terminated,” a Homeland Security news release stated.

TPS protects those who are eligible for the program from deportation and allows them to work in the U.S. The designation is a temporary benefit granted to countries experiencing extraordinary and temporary conditions, including natural disasters and civil war. Currently, 10 countries have the designation.

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SOURCE: Holly Meyer, USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee
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