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Faith Leaders, Members of Congress, and Impacted Individuals Continue Calling for Humanitarian Relief for Haiti

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Hundreds of faith leaders, Members of Congress, and impacted individuals are among the latest voices urging the Biden administration to take urgent action to address the political and humanitarian crisis unfolding in Haiti.

In their letter to the Biden administration, more than 250 faith leaders and organizations are urging officials to redesignate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haiti and temporarily halt deportation flights to the small nation. The 151 faith leaders and 101 organizations also express deep concern over reports that Guantanamo Bay may be used to detain Haitians interdicted at sea.

“Many of our organizations and places of worship have deep connections to Haiti and continue to work with our partners there to prevent violence, promote peace and justice, and welcome Haitians displaced by the ongoing crisis,” the letter states. “Our diverse faith traditions call us to express solidarity with all people whose lives are impacted by conflict and violence, and we urge the administration to vigorously pursue all options for humanitarian protection for Haitians.”

They write that conditions in Haiti have only worsened since the Biden administration’s previous extension and redesignation of TPS for Haiti in 2022. Haiti’s acting prime minister resigned this past March, leaving the country in unrest and without a functional government. 

“The situation therefore meets the TPS designation criteria of temporary and extraordinary conditions that make a safe return to Haiti impossible,” the faith leaders and groups say. “TPS designations can also promote stability, because Haitians with work permits can send increased remittances to relatives in Haiti, helping them cover basic needs.”

The faith leaders and organizations say they’re also concerned “by recent reports that the administration is considering detaining Haitians interdicted at sea at the Guantanamo Bay naval base and other offshore migrant detention centers.” They say this harkens to a “shameful chapter” in US history. “The history of Haitian refugees at Guantanamo Bay underscores the importance of treating all individuals with dignity and ensuring their rights are protected, especially in times of crisis. Haitians fleeing violence and persecution need support, not punishment.”

During a press call this week, Haiti Caucus Co-Chairs Rep. Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), and Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick (FL-20), and Rep. Cori Bush (MO-01) joined an impacted individual still in Haiti, Haitian-led organizations and allies to also urge action by the Biden administration. During the call, an impacted individual identified only as “E” for safety reasons described the situation in Haiti in harrowing, stark tones.

“What we have been witnessing currently is unprecedented in our country’s history,” E said. “There has been government complacency in what we’re seeing right now. All of the areas that previously were safe are not safe. The government of Haiti does not have any control of the country. Police officers who are fighting to try to keep things at bay are doing their best, but they don’t know for how long they can continue to fight. The population is left to fend for themselves in this humanitarian crisis.” E said there is “no food,” “no gas,” and that schools have closed “and no one knows when they will be open again.”

Guerline Jozef, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Haitian Bridge Alliance (HBA), called on the Biden administration to expand the CHNV program, the successful program allowing Americans to sponsor Cuban, Haitian, Nicaraguan, and Venezuelan migrants that meet certain criteria.

“We are calling for swift and immediate response to reunite families and send the proper and appropriate letters so people can safely migrate,” Jozef said. “We are calling on a complete halt to all deportations, by air, sea, or land. Anywhere, any port of entry. We must make sure that we say no on caging and imprisoning Haitian refugees in Guantanamo bay… Immigration is a social, racial, justice issue. Immigration is a black issue.”

“We must move with urgency and compassion – for the sake of the Haitian people, for the Haitian diaspora in Massachusetts and beyond, and for the sake of our shared humanity,” Rep. Pressley said. Rep. Cherfilus-McCormick said that the “time has come for us to stand in solidarity with the people of Haiti and their fight for peace, order, and stability.” Rep. Bush said the Biden Administration must “extend and redesignate Haiti for TPS, halt deportations, expand lawful pathways including access to asylum, and support a Haitian-led transition to democracy.”

“We have to do everything we can as Americans to not continue to support the gangs by giving them the ammunitions they need to terrorize the Haitian people,” said Cherfilus-McCormick – Congress’ only Haitian-American representative. See coverage on the press conference in Reuters here.

The calls from faith voices, members of Congress, and impacted individuals this week followed a letter from nearly 70 members of Congress last month urging the Biden administration to move on humanitarian action. Haitian Bridge Alliance also led more than 400 organizations, including America’s Voice, in a letter also calling for relief, including expedited CHNV processing.

“Redesignation will allow protection against removal and eligibility for work authorization to all eligible Haitians in the United States. The current TPS recipients from Haiti in the United States, many of whom have been here for decades and have children who are U.S. citizens, have also become essential to our economy and our morale as a country,” the groups said. “Moreover, TPS promotes recovery, development, and regional stability by preserving and increasing the flow of remittances to Haiti and directly into the pockets of people who can use the money for food, healthcare, housing, education, and other basic needs that will help decrease the flow of migration.”