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Biden Administration Announces Two New Policies To Protect Immigrants: Extension and Expansion of Haiti TPS and New Rule To Protect Workers from Extreme Heat

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Recent Biden Announcements Stand to Expand Relief for Potentially 300,000 Haitian Immigrants Already in U.S., As Well As Protect Millions of Indoor and Outdoor Workers from the Effects of Deadly Heat

Over the past few days, the Biden administration announced two new policies that will have a direct, positive impact on millions of immigrants and for the nation at large.

In a major victory led by Haitian organizations, leaders, and affected families, the Biden administration last Friday announced the extension and redesignation of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haiti. This critical win will provide life-saving relief and stability to as many as 300,000 Haitian immigrants already here, protecting them from being deported back to unsafe conditions and allowing them to live and work legally in the U.S. 

“It was a long fought battle,” said Haitian Bridge Alliance, which led in numerous actions calling on the Biden administration to act, including a May press conference featuring Congressional leaders. In a statement on Friday, Haitian Bridge Alliance Executive Director Guerline Jozef noted that the extension and redesignation of relief is not only the right thing to do, it’s an economic win for the nation.

“Extending and redesignating TPS is the right course of action considering that TPS-eligible individuals contribute nearly $31 billion annually to the U.S. economy,” Jozef said in a release received by America’s Voice. “Haitian TPS recipients contribute $4.4 billion to the American economy in 2022. However, this is only a temporary measure. I call on the U.S. Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform that would create a pathway to permanent protection for all TPS recipients.”

Rep. Ayanna Pressley, among lawmakers who stood alongside the Haitian Bridge Alliance, National Haitian American Elected Officials Network, Florida Immigrant Coalition, and UndocuBlack Network at the May press event, said, “Our Haitian siblings can breathe a little easier tonight.” She urged the Biden administration also to halt all deportation flights to the small nation, which has months been in deep unrest.

“The humanitarian crisis in Haiti demands a humanitarian response that will help save lives, and extending and redesignating Haiti for TPS is a necessary step that will do just that,” said Rep. Pressley, who serves as the House Haiti Caucus co-chair. “I’m grateful to Secretary Mayorkas and the Biden-Harris administration for heeding our calls and being responsive to our broad coalition of policymakers, immigrant justice advocates, and impacted Haitian families in the Massachusetts 7th and across the country.”

Haitian immigrant Fanor Massolas is a current TPS holder and works at Los Angeles International Airport. “He said it’s always stressful wondering whether the protection will be renewed but it’s better than not having any protection at all. Going back to Haiti is not an option, Massolas said,” the Associated Press reported. “Massolas said he considers the U.S. his home even though he doesn’t have citizenship. This is where he lives, where he works, where he’s been able to go to school and learn English.”

“Today’s redesignation and extension of TPS for Haiti is a welcome development that advances American interests and values, keeps families together, and offers reminders of the dueling visions and larger stakes for this election across the nation,” said America’s Voice Executive Director Vanessa Cárdenas. “While one party is proposing to end TPS, deport people by the millions, and separate even deeply rooted immigrants, President Biden is making it clear that he prioritizes keeping families together with actions like this one on TPS.”

In a historic move on Monday, the Biden administration also announced the long-awaited, first-of-its-kind rule protecting millions of indoor and outdoor workers from extreme heat, including implementing requirements for drinking water, rest breaks, and injury and illness prevention plans. “If finalized, the proposed rule would help protect approximately 36 million workers in indoor and outdoor work settings and substantially reduce heat injuries, illnesses and deaths in the workplace,” the Department of Labor said

The rule comes “as a heat wave settles over California this week and triple-digit heat is also expected to scorch Portland over the July 4 weekend,” The New York Times reported. While extreme heat affects all communities, it’s life or death for millions of construction workers, farmworkers, and many other immigrant and U.S.-born workers who labor outdoors. One year ago this week, Florida farmworker Efraín López García died while harvesting tropical fruit on the hottest day on record in at least four decades. López García, who was originally from Guatemala, was just 29.

“Is that what we deserve? No. We’re human beings,” said Alejandro Pérez, a member of Florida-based WeCount. “We deserve a dignified life and a decent job.” United Farm Workers, a top advocate in urging the Biden administration to act on a federal heat rule, called it “a bittersweet moment for farm workers.” 

“Today, the federal government put itself on the right side of history by seeking, for the first time, to establish the precedent that every worker in America has the right to shade, water, and rest while working in temperatures that could kill them,” said UFW President Teresa Romero. “As extreme temperatures continue to become the new normal, we also know it will continue to be America’s most marginalized yet essential workers, disproportionately immigrants, who will continue to be used by our society as disposable human shields against climate change. This proposal is a step towards becoming a better nation – one in which our economy is more resilient, our society more just, and every worker able to work with dignity and come home to their family.”

Romero noted that in Texas and Florida, “extreme anti-worker and pro-death Governors have taken extreme action to dismantle the few local workplace heat protections that existed.” Texas “is the state where the most workers die from high temperatures,” The Texas Tribune noted last year. One of these laborers was UPS worker Elliot Brown, who complained about not feeling well and asked if he could go home on one hot morning in July 2017. “The answer was no,” USA Today reported. “They were short-handed, his supervisor said. Shortly after 6 a.m., Brown was found unconscious in the back of a UPS truck. He later died at a hospital.” His mother, Laura, said trying to cope with his senseless death has been “a nightmare. When I wake up in the morning, I keep thinking it was all a dream. It’s been very hard.”

“Every worker should come home safe and healthy at the end of the day, which is why the Biden-Harris administration is taking this significant step to protect workers from the dangers posed by extreme heat,” said Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su. “As the most pro-worker administration in history, we are committed to ensuring that those doing difficult work in some of our economy’s most critical sectors are valued and kept safe in the workplace.”  

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