WASHINGTON, DC, USA (CMC) – The chair of the United States Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), Cedric Richmond, and Caribbean American Congresswoman Yvette D Clarke have urged the Trump administration to extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitian nationals who were in the United States prior to November 4, last year.
Haiti was added to the list of TPS-designated countries on January 21, 2010, after an earthquake killed 300,000 people and displaced another 1.5 million people. TPS has been extended three times since then for 18 months each, the CBC noted.
“Allowing Haitian nationals in this country to remain here longer puts them and their families in a better position to help Haiti rebuild and recover from devastating natural disasters,” said Congressman Richmond in his letter to John Kelly, secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security, on Wednesday.
“The 2010 earthquake and the cholera outbreak and hurricane that followed hurt a country that was already hurting and now is not the time to add salt to the wound.”
Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, who represents the 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn, New York, said the 2010 earthquake “disrupted the function of civil society in Haiti, displacing families from their homes, closing schools and social service agencies, creating instability in government and undermining the economy.
“The people of Haiti have demonstrated extraordinary resolve in their efforts to rebuild, despite serious hardships, such as Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and outbreaks of cholera,” she said in her letter to Kelly. “Their efforts have been supported by Haitian nationals here in the United States, who are working hard, and [are] sending money to family members and friends.
“These remittances are critical to the recovery, and have provided not only for basic needs but have also supported education, agricultural restoration, business development and home reconstruction,” she added.
Clarke urged Kelly to “follow in the proud tradition established by his predecessors of continuing to allow Haitian nationals to contribute to their nation's future”.
The CBC said Clarke's request was joined by the entire group and that she has also introduced HR 1014, the Haiti Emergency Relief Act of 2017, which would provide TPS for Haitian nationals who have been in the United States since before November 4, 2016.
The congressional representatives' plea comes on the heels of a recommendation by acting director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services, James McCament that TPS be extended for only six months past the current July 22 expiration date.
The recommendation to end TPS has fuelled at least two petitions from Haitian activists, letters from both Republican and Democratic law makers and faith-based leaders and organisations.
“Failing to reissue TPS at this critical juncture would be a grave mistake that would mean sending tens of thousands of Haitians back to a country that is struggling with disease, nutritional insecurity, and possible natural disaster,” the CBC told Kelly in the letter.
“Instead of undertaking this drastic and irreversible action, we call upon you to show compassion for this struggling community and allow them to remain here for an additional 18 months as Haiti continues to rebuild.”
In his recommendation, McCament noted that while Hurricane Matthew in October “contributed to suffering in Haiti,” the suffering was only confined to three of the country's 10 geographical regions, and “the damage did not halt Haiti's overall recovery trajectory.
“Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere, and it had enormous problems long before the 2010 earthquake,” said McCament in the memorandum.
“Even before the earthquake, the Haitian government could not or would not deliver core functions to the majority of its people.”
But Clarke disagrees, describing McCament's memorandum as “a reckless, short-sighted, and simply unacceptable decision on his part”.