We wanted to make sure you saw two letters from elected officials on both sides of the aisle urging the Biden Administration to redesignate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haiti. Both of the letters — one from Representatives Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) and Albio Sires (D-NJ), and another from Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) — indicate strong bipartisan support for protecting vulnerable Haitians, and also underscore the vital role of TPS designation in keeping families together. Currently more than 270,000 U.S. citizen children have at least one parent with Temporary Protected Status.
Haitians, including current TPS holders, are living in constant fear of being deported and forced to return to a country experiencing a compounding set of devastation from political unrest, natural disasters and extraordinary conditions like a debilitating health system in the midst of a deadly global pandemic. It’s time for the Biden Administration to act on protecting these vulnerable individuals now.
This week, senior U.S. Representatives Mario Diaz-Balart and Albio Sires, Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Western Hemisphere subcommittee wrote DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas urging him to redesignate Haiti for TPS, writing in part:
“We are writing to urge you to re-designate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haiti, given that “extraordinary and temporary” conditions exist that make it unsafe for Haitian nationals to return to Haiti. …
“We are deeply concerned about the situation in Haiti. Haitians are suffering under a dysfunctional government, a deepening economic crisis, and a spike in gang violence and kidnappings. The mandates of most members of the Haitian Parliament and all Haitian mayors were terminated at the beginning of 2020 due to delayed elections, leaving President Jovenel Moïse to run the country by decree with no legislative oversight and few checks on his power.
“These governance and security crises have only exacerbated the underlying humanitarian challenges that Haitians have faced in the wake of the 2010 earthquake and the 2016 hurricane. According to the World Food Program, Haiti has one of the highest levels of food insecurity in the world. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Haitians’ already-limited access to basic health services has been reduced further, and international aid organizations have expressed alarm that children are missing routine immunizations. In recent weeks, growing violence has at times made travel extremely difficult and restricted access to hospitals. …”
Dear Secretary Mayorkas:
We write to express our deep concern about the complicated economic, security, and humanitarian challenges in Haiti and respectfully request that you consider redesignating Haiti for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). Haiti’s protracted political crisis exacerbates the severe and prolonged humanitarian needs sparked by the 2010 earthquake. While the Government of Haiti has been able to receive limited numbers of Haitian nationals removed from the United States, it lacks the capacity to provide the needed reception and care for tens of thousands of returnees. As the United States engages with the Haitian government to help chart a way forward, a TPS redesignation would provide a much-needed reprieve for upwards of 55,000 Haitians in the United States, including current Haitian TPS beneficiaries. It would also lessen the burden on the Haitian people, government, and aid organizations, and mitigate risks of further destabilization.
The devastation caused by the January 12, 2010 earthquake—which killed over 300,000 people, displaced 1.5 million, and destroyed the country’s already weak infrastructure— prompted the Obama Administration to grant TPS to Haitian nationals. The scale of the disaster in Haiti overwhelmed the government’s ability to respond and earthquake-related needs were subsequently exacerbated by additional shocks to the country, including a cholera epidemic, that led to a redesignation in 2011. As a result of the lasting damage from those events, exacerbated by 2016’s Hurricane Matthew and a multi-year drought that severely limited crop supply, DHS extended TPS on multiple occasions—including in May 2017 under the Trump administration—until it decided to terminate the designation in November 2017. That termination decision remains enjoined from taking effect as a result of a federal court order.
According to the UN’s 2021 Haiti Humanitarian Needs Overview, approximately 4 million people were affected by acute food insecurity from August 2020 to February 2021 and 2.1 percent of children in the country faced severe acute malnutrition during this period. The UN estimates that 4.4 million people will need humanitarian assistance during the course of 2021. The United States must take immediate action to provide life-saving assistance and bring about a swift resolution to the country’s newest crisis.
Additionally, we are concerned that Haiti’s significant political challenges have introduced additional instability in the country. Currently, two-thirds of the Haitian Senate and the entire lower chamber of the legislature are unoccupied due to expired terms, and President Moise is ruling by decree. Amidst this crisis of democratic governance, we welcome the Administration’s call for Haitian political actors to address their differences through peaceful means. Given that the United States has historically set stability as a central element approach to Haiti, redesignating TPS status to the country will be a step in the right direction as we look to uphold and democratic institutions and protect human rights.