Why to thank Haitian immigrants for your Thanksgiving turkey

On Behalf of | Nov 21, 2018 | US Immigration Law

Thanksgiving is just around the corner. It’s a time to gather with family and friends, feasting on turkey, potatoes and pie. If you’re like most Americans, you get your turkey from the nation’s leading turkey provider: Butterball. But it might surprise you to learn that Butterball couldn’t run its company without Haitian asylum seekers who came to the U.S. under Temporary Protected Status (TPS). This program is currently under threat.

In 2010, Butterball turkey company—based in Mount Olive, North Carolina—was in trouble. The company struggled to find workers to undertake difficult labor at their turkey processing plant—which processes 500 million pounds of turkey each year. The town of Mount Olive was also on the brink of collapse—with a dwindling population and minimal investment into the local economy.

But following the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti, fleeing Haitian immigrants—and Mount Olive—were given a chance at a fresh start. TPS allowed Haitians to escape the instability of their own country and work in the U.S. on a temporary basis. 1,500 Haitians moved to Mount Olive—a town of only 4,700—to work at Butterball. The influx of Haitian workers breathed new life into the town and quickly bolstered its economy.

Since President Trump took office, he has taken a stern approach to asylum seekers. He believes that Haitians do not deserve special treatment. At the beginning of this year, he attempted to terminate TPS for Haitians and other immigrants, effective July 22, 2019. If successful, this would result in mass deportation and turmoil for thousands of families—many of whom have had children in the U.S. It would also devastate the U.S. economies that rely on such workers.

In response to Trump’s efforts, a group of immigrants filed a joint lawsuit against the administration. They claimed that Trump’s attempt to end TPS “was motivated by intentional race- and national-origin-based animus.” Last month, a federal judge ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, on the grounds that uprooting vast numbers of TPS beneficiaries would have devastating impacts on local and national economies.

For now, at least, this temporary order protects TPS beneficiaries. However, a final decision has not yet been reached. Many TPS workers—and their employers—are left in limbo, hoping these immigrants will still be here for Thanksgiving next year.