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As is often the case with fast friends, Jean Bradley Derenoncourt and Kenny Azi have a lot in common. They’re both 26 and they have a similar life story: after the 2010 earthquake they left and moved in with relatives in Brockton. They met as students at Massasoit Community College.
“Just trying to make something out of nothing, not even knowing the language,” recalled Derenoncourt. “I think I saw it in him because we wanted to speak the [English] language.”
I’ve been fortunate to be able to be in a different situation than Kenny.
Sitting side by side at a table at Jeano’s restaurant in Brockton, a venerable hangout for the city’s Haitian community, Azi and Derenoncourt share a similar look: dark suits, bright shirts. They work full time and nurture big ambitions. Azi wants to go to law school and open a consulting firm. Derenoncourt is an aspiring politician who's running for City Council At-Large in Brockton. Yet, there’s a critical difference — Derenoncourt’s father is a U.S. citizen, and last year Derenoncourt became a citizen, too.
“I’ve been fortunate to be able to be in a different situation than Kenny,” said Derenoncourt.
Azi is here under Temporary Protected Status. The acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has indicated that conditions in Haiti have improved enough to end protective status for Haitians.
Azi tells a different story. His family still lives in Haiti, which since the earthquake, has been hit with a cholera epidemic, Hurricane Mathew and widespread hunger. Azi says rather than opening a law firm, he’d be seeking basic survival if he moved back.
“The condition of life down there is terrible,” said Azi. “We’re optimistic that things will eventually change, but as of right now, it is not an option.”
We're optimistic that things will eventually change, but as of right now, it is not an option.
Azi says the stress of worrying about this TPS status is constant. He’s not alone. There are about 4,000 Haitians living in Massachusetts under TPS. Many, like Azi, are well established with jobs, homes and families.
“There’s a lot of TPS holders who have children, American children,” said state Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry. “So you have a situation where if the parents get sent back to Haiti, who’s going to take care of that child?”
Forry points out that in states with significant Haitian populations – Massachusetts, New York and Florida – congressional representatives have made a bi-partisan push to renew TPS. She hopes it will prompt the Trump administration to honor a promise candidate Trump made: to champion the Haitian community.
So we have a situation where if the parents get sent back to Haiti, who's going to take care of that child?
“So here’s a president who rallied and convinced – not all Haitians, because I’m Haitian-American – but Florida, in particular, that he would support Haitian families,” said Forry. “This is what we’re getting, but we’ve got to be hopeful.”
The deadline to renew TPS for Haitians, or let it expire, is May 23.