NEW YORK – As bishops’ conferences around the world released messages of hope and glad tidings to coincide with the holiday season, the Catholic bishops of Haiti used their Christmas message to express grave concern for the country’s future in light of recent migration trends.
“As we prepare to celebrate this feast of the Light, we live in particularly dark events in our history. We observe with great sorrow and anxiety the growing phenomenon of mass migration of Haitians and especially young people to Latin America (Chile and Brazil), the Caribbean and North America (Canada and USA),” they wrote.
“This migratory flow deprives Haiti of a significant part of its youth, its executives. It is the very future of the country that is threatened,” they continued. “The young people of Haiti are struggling to hope, to build their future in a country that, in their opinion, offers them no chance, no prospect for the future.”
The Caribbean island is home to nearly eleven million inhabitants, over fifty percent of whom identity as Roman Catholic.
Due to a mix of political turmoil, severe poverty, and natural disasters, recent years have brought about a massive wave of migration. Many Haitians sought refuge in the United States following the 2010 earthquake that devastated the island country, however, in November, the Trump administration announced that it would end the country’s Temporary Protective Status (TPS) designation for 59,000 Haitians currently living in the United States.
In September, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) led a delegation to Haiti to assess conditions and concluded that the U.S. government should extend the TPS program due to the uncertain environment in the country.
“Haiti is in no position to accommodate the return of the estimated 50,000 Haitians who have received TPS. Doing so would potentially destabilize the small nation, derail its path to recovery, and possibly harm those returned, particularly the up- rooted children. In addition, terminating TPS would needlessly create a large unauthorized Haitian population in the U.S. and contribute to unauthorized re-migration,” the USCCB delegation concluded in its report.
Such conditions have led the Haitian bishops to call upon the government to immediately remedy the conditions within the country in order to make it a safe and secure place for both Haitians to return and for residents to stay put.
“We urge the holders of the three powers of the state to take firm measures and concerted decisions to create conditions conducive to job creation, state stability and security of the nation,” said the bishops. “We urge the elites of different sectors (economic, political, professional) and politicians to invest and invest more in the consolidation of institutions, respect for democratic rules and development of the country.”
According to the USCCB, there are now 27,000 children born to Haitian TPS beneficiaries who are now U.S. citizens, who along with the tens of thousands of other migrants, contribute to the massive exodus of the country’s current population and its future.
In focusing their Christmas message on this singular issue, the Haitian bishops are attempting to galvanize citizens to salvage the country’s future prospects.
“We urge the Haitians from here and our compatriots in the diaspora to feel themselves challenged by such a dramatic situation and become aware of their civic responsibility towards the Haitian nation to build together … the pursuit of the common good, which is at once the good of all and the good of everyone; respect for human dignity, honesty and civility,” they wrote.
“Let us put together our intelligence, our talents, our resources, our wealth, at the service of building a solid rule of law, a democratic and prosperous nation, a Haiti that looks with confidence at its future to live fully and with hope in its present.”
“In this time of Advent, time of hope and active waiting in prayer and action, let us turn, together, with our eyes wide open, towards the salvation that God offers us in Jesus, the Messiah, the long-awaited Savior,” the bishops concluded.