A group of Democratic US senators is urging the Biden administration to immediately expand and expand immigration protections for Haitians in the United States as Haiti’s ongoing civil unrest, gang violence and kidnappings force thousands of people to leave.
Led by Massachusetts Senator Edward J. Markey, who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the group of 15 lawmakers is calling for temporary protected status to be redesignated for Haiti. Haiti’s current designation of 18 months expires in February.
Under that designation, Haitians living in the United States on July 29, 2021 were allowed to take advantage of humanitarian aid when the Biden administration expanded eligibility requirements after the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse on July 7, 2021. Nationals of countries designated under TPS are allowed to temporarily live and work legally in the United States without fear of deportation.
Among those who support the effort are: fellow Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren; Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, the highest-ranking Democratic senator; United States Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois and California Senate Dianne Feinstein.
The lawmakers argue that by re-designating TPS, the government would further expand the pool of eligible Haitians by giving the same benefit to those who fled to the United States after the deadly earthquake of August 14, 2021 in Haiti. The TPS request comes as Haiti is experiencing fuel, food and water shortages as a result of a powerful gang alliance blocking its main fuel terminal and seaports, and while the government decides whether to go ahead with the designation, it will extend it for another 18 months after it expires. has expired or to re-designate TPS for Haitians to capture more recent arrivals.
Repurposing, the senators write, would allow newly arrived Haitians in the United States to legally support themselves and the communities they live in as Haiti continues to face escalating gang violence, a fuel blockade, an ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and now a deadly cholera outbreak. Due to the instability of the country, thousands of Haitians have taken to the sea in hopes of trying to reach the United States with unseaworthy boats by reaching Florida or Puerto Rico.
The US southern border also continues to attract waves of Haitian migrants, mainly through Mexico and South American countries. The flows have led the Biden administration to deport more than 26,000 Haitians since taking office and have come under criticism from immigration lawyers.
“Denying access to TPS to recent arrivals will not serve as an effective deterrent to future border crossings given Haitians’ desperation to flee the appalling conditions, nor will it lead them to voluntarily leave the United States in the face of the continuing extraordinary circumstances preventing their safe return home,” the letter read. “It will just leave Haitians living in poverty and at risk of being expelled in the United States.”
In May 2020, Markey, whose district has a growing Haitian-American population, urged then-President Donald Trump to halt deportations to Haiti during the COVID-19 pandemic in an effort to boost the country’s population and its frail public health infrastructure.