There is nothing left in Haiti for Marie Parfait Paul.
The 58-year-old single mother of six has lived in Miami for the past 15 years, working as a dishwasher for $9 an hour. Her parents died in the 2010 earthquake that rocked the island, and her husband left her.
But if the Department of Homeland Security upholds its decision to rescind the temporary protected status for her and 50,000 other Haitian immigrants, she will be forced to return to the island.
“I can’t go to Haiti now,” she said. “There is nothing in Haiti. No family. No nothing.”
At midday Tuesday, Paul and more than 300 others marched from West Palm Beach to the eastern-most point of Bingham Island, where they could see President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, to protest the Trump administration’s decision Monday night to end temporary protected status for 50,000 Haitians living in the U.S. The protection, which was provided to Haitians after the 2010 earthquake, will terminate July 22, 2019, giving Haitians under TPS an 18-month period to return to Haiti or face detention and deportation. Under the law, TPS could be granted to eligible Haitians who were already in the U.S.
Although the president was not scheduled to arrive in West Palm Beach until after 5 p.m., the mix of advocacy groups and labor unions wanted their voices heard Tuesday to fight for all the immigrants wanting to stay in the country.
“I think this was one of the most high-profile actions today in reaction to TPS,” said Unite Here spokeswoman Rachel Gumpert. “I hope (Trump) takes some time to reflect on what this will mean to the 50,000 Haitian families that will be impacted by this.”
Unite Here — a labor union that represents hotel and hospitality workers — teamed up with other groups such as the Florida chapter of The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees to bus in families from Miami, Orlando and Tampa to take part in the rally, which was designed to get as close to Mar-a-Lago as possible.
Jeen Vilner Isma traveled almost four hours on a bus from Orlando with his wife and children to participate in the protest.
“We need the (residency) for the immigrant people,” he said. “We’re here for work and a good education.”
His young daughter attends school at John Young Elementary School in Orlando, but the whole family would be deported if the TPS decision goes through.
The protesters want to be allowed to stay in the U.S. permanently. The group walked along the sidewalk, making sure not to block traffic or break any laws, and chanted things such as ”What do we want? Residence. When do we want it? Now” and “If we don’t get it? Shut it down.”
Officers from several police agencies guided them along their protest route and stopped them at the edge of Bingham Island where they could clearly see the president’s winter White House in Palm Beach beyond the trees.
The protesters stayed there chanting for about 20 minutes before heading back across the bridge to West Palm Beach.
As they moved back across the bridge, the protesters passed two Trump supporters who countered their chants.
A man wearing a shirt that said “here legally” said through a megaphone, “End the fraudulent TPS. When do we want it? Now.”
But the protesters were pleased to see all the people who came out in support.
Manes Joseph came to the United States after the earthquake that devastated his home country. A Delaware North Corporation employee who works at the Fort Lauderdale airport, Joseph said the people need to unite in support of TPS.
“We don’t want to go back. We have a house here. We live here,” he said. “We don’t have nothing there. We can’t go back.”